Sunday, June 24, 2012

Greetings from Paradise

Hi Friends! If this were a postcard, it would say “Greetings from Paradise!” 

If we are friends, dear reader, you know that Atlantic Beach is my version of paradise.  My family has been coming to Mema’s beach cottage since I don’t know when; at least thirty years before I was born, and every summer since.  This little cottage has seen more than its share of hurricanes, loose shingles, and water damage, and thanks to Mema, who has grudgingly and faithfully written checks for the frequent repairs, she still stands, like a beacon that calls us back home.  With my Dad being in the newspaper business, we moved around quite a bit when I was a girl, about every five or six years.  I did not mind because it was all that my brother and I knew, but when that happens, you learn not to get too attached to any particular home or town.  They say that home is where the heart is, and if that is the case, then my home is surely the beach house.  It is where my love affair with the South began and where I hope it ends. 

God forbid, I should meet an early demise, (the poor girls would have such bad hair) do me a favor and remind Hubby that I do not want to be laid out like a stuffed turkey for all to admire one last time.  No siree! Just drop me off at the crematorium and take my ashes to Shackleford Banks, on the Crystal Coast.  Take a walk around the tiny island until you find the wild horses who have lived there since Spanish ships wrecked off the coast in the 1600’s and they swam to shore.  It is a majestic thing to stand in their presence, like being with Spanish royalty. Then, take a stroll back to the sound, where the water is as calm as a bath and as the sun sets, dump me in, real quick like, so you don’t get caught (awkward!). That is ceremony enough for me.  

Baby "Prince" of Shackleford with his Mama

I’m sorry but that just needed to be said.  If it were up to Hubby, I’d be laid out for a three day (yes, I’m serious) Macedonian sob fest.  I know that he is just terrified that he’ll end up in the ocean somewhere! Don’t worry babe…I’ll make sure you go out Macedonian style, but I am not wearing black for a year. 

So what do I love most about the place that holds my heart?  These days, I love revisiting the old beach traditions with my little girls.  Savannah is the daughter who has been cut out of the same cloth as me.  Just the other day, my little girl with an old soul joined my mother and me for an expedition to downtown Beaufort.  Beaufort was recently voted the coolest small town in America! Lemme just say that I loved Beaufort before it was cool.  Last year, one of Blackbeard’s ships, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was discovered off the Crystal Coast (which boasts more ship wrecks that any other part of the United States) and some of the pirate’s knickknacks were exhibited at the N.C. Maritime museum in Beaufort.  This sparked a pirate obsession with Lilah and Savannah, who LOVED the ridiculously overpriced pirate show presented by a motley crew of local “actors” (I use this term very loosely), one of which had a great rack that she was NOT afraid to show off.  The aging, alcoholic grandpa in the back row was a huge fan off her “treasure chest".  That's all I'm saying about that!

This year, we girls hit the town for the Beaufort Historical Society Old Homes and Gardens tour.  Let's talk about just how nerdy I am…I have done this tour too many times to count, along with ghost tours (very cool!), pirate tours, treasure hunts (in 100 degree weather), and carriage rides.  It just never gets old! 

Some of the interesting folks that may or may not still hang around Beaufort are the Confederate spy, Emeline Pigott, who regularly smuggled enough knives, boots, and guns to fill up a large suitcase in her petticoats for the boys in grey.  Or the genteel Southern housewife, who killed invading Union soldiers and decided to bury them in her backyard (sensible!) You don't mess with a Southern lady's china or pearls! If you are in the mood to hear about some of the more eccentric characters of Beaufort’s history, you can visit The Old Burying Ground, which boasts being one of oldest cemeteries in North Carolina.  You will see a child's tombstone, covered in toys, which are left lovingly for the little girl who was buried in a barrel of rum. She was the daughter of a couple who immigrated to Beaufort from London in the 1700's.  She begged her father take her with him on a voyage to London so that she could see her homeland,  and she died of fever on the trip back home. The father, having promised to bring her home to her mother, preserved her body the only way he knew how…in a barrel of rum and that is how she was buried. 

My youngest, Lilah, is not old enough to appreciate the history of Beaufort or the Crystal Coast, but she does love to visit the Aquarium, which is one of the largest in the state.  Lulu loves the beach for all of the reasons that my cousins and I did as children.  She loves the perfectly still, warm water in the sound at Shackleford Banks, where she and her little floaties can swim with confidence.  She loves the beautiful shells that you can collect on the island’s shore.  She loves digging in the sand until her bathing suit looks like a loaded diaper and she is caked with sand up to her eyes.  And after a long day of swimming and digging, she loves to indulge in a piece of fudge from the The Fudge Factory or some rock candy from The General Store.  Alright, that last part might be me. 

Everyone should have a perfect place that holds their heart like no other.  If you haven’t found yours yet…it’s time for a road trip!  Pack up the kids (or the dogs) and some comfy clothes and drive until you feel like a crazy person…mumbling to yourself about how you are never doing this shit again.  Then, fall in love with someplace new.  It doesn’t have to be luxurious.  You just have to do it with someone you love.  My paradise is the salty ocean air, a marathon of trashy paperbacks from the used book store, fried seafood that inevitably gives me the runs, and the smell of my children’s sun kissed skin.  What is yours??


Friday, June 15, 2012

When I Grow Up...

Here are the three bumble bees.  That name suits them perfectly because they never stop buzzing unless they are asleep.  Even as I tuck Savannah and Lilah into their shared pink bed, they are still going a hundred miles an hour; Savannah asking me why her hair is brown, where we go when we die, and how many days until we go to Disney World, while Lilah is thinking about all the things she'd like to tell God tonight..."Thanks for this nail polish, but it's starting to chip, so could we please repaint them tomorrow?" The ham in the middle is their cousin Laine, who is never far from the action.  She is quite a character! The other day I accidentally stepped on her foot, and she went home and told Mommy, "You see this? See it?! That is what your friend Auntie Kate did to my foot!!"

They are more than enough to keep a girl busy.  But lately, I have been having an identity crisis of sorts.  It happens to the best of us.  I felt this overwhelming urge to have another child.  Like this biological desire to have more kids, but my head kept telling me, "That's crazy! You can't afford one! Like your husband isn't stressed out enough already!" Let me just add a footnote and say that even if we give it the old college try, it is really hard for us to get pregnant.  It works best when there are laboratory instruments, injections, awkward ultrasounds, and enough hormones to impregnate a horse involved. But since we were lacking...oh...say ten grand, we tried for awhile on our own.  Or I should say, I tried real hard and poor Hubby just went along for the ride because he would do anything for me.  If it weren't for my reproductively challenged body, I'd be like Michelle Dugger, only really grumpy and minus the homeschooling. 

But I never stopped to ask God what he thought of my plans.  And I never really considered what Hubby thought about them either.  It's a given that he would love a basketball team of kids, just like me, but he is the one who has always been the grown up in our relationship.  He says annoying stuff like, "Maybe we should pray about it before jumping in." or "Maybe we should work on our credit card debt first." Ugh!! Are you implying that I don't know best?! Rude.

Poor guy.

So this month, when my grand plans did not work out, (shocker!) I tried something new.   I lay in bed and said, "Thank you." Thank you because His plans are so much better than mine.  Then I told Hubby that I was ready to get off this crazy train, and he breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Thank God." Isn't it amazing to be loved so well that someone would willingly sacrifice their own wants and needs just to make you happy? But that's not the way that love should be.  It's my job to look out for him, and his job to look out for me.  Hubby never learned to take care of himself (basic human needs like food, water, and sleep elude him).  I however am an expert at self preservation (people, I could teach a course on it) so I have to offer him some encouragement in this department.

Where does that leave me now? Well, if God wants us to have another child, He'll just have to divinely intervene and make it happen.  We sure don't do anything to stop Him.  My heart tells me that this is it, and two perfect babies are all we get.  

By the way, if I were reading this six years ago, when the odds were stacked against us ever conceiving, I would have punched this blogger in the face.  Really, lady? Two healthy little girls aren't enough of a miracle for you.  But, really.  Do miracles ever get old?  Do we ever say "Oh! None for me, thanks.  I've had my miracle quota for this life."  

My mama taught me that instead of moping about what you can't have, you make a new plan.  So that's what I've been up to.  It is multifaceted and quite intelligent so let me break it down for you:

1.) Pay attention to what your husband needs.  He, after all, is a member of this household too, Your Excellency.  
2.) Introduce yourself to God again.  Hello, remember me? This may begin by singing a few songs in the car and talking to him BEFORE you are about to slip into an unconscious state.  
3.) Redefine your future as a woman.  You WILL sing at a church again.  You WILL either get your Doula certification or Kindermusic certification within the next year. 
4.) Quit trying to shove stuff that won't fit into a God shaped hole. You'll always wind up empty. 

 Yesterday, I met a woman who has six children and went back to school to get her esthetician certification at the age of 37.  Now she owns her own business.  I am fascinated by women who reinvent themselves after thirty.  My own mother paved the way for me by going back to work in her fifties after a twenty five year hiatus (it just took that long to raise us).  Now, my Dad cleans house and cooks, while she works full time.  

What is your plan going to be?  Who do you want to become?  I am dying to know so drop me a line!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Let Your Freak Flag Fly!

Okay, so there are two things you should know about me if we're going to be friends.  One, I am a big nerd.  Oh yeah, big time, baby.  Particularly about history.  I should have been born in another era, for sure.   And two, I am a music fanatic.  I love me some vintage rock n' roll. 

I will never forget the day that I found out Elvis was dead.  I was about five and my Dad had given me his collection of 45's, which contained the likes of Crystal Gale (rockin' hair!), the Supremes, the Oak Ridge Boys (Elvira anyone?), and then there was Elvis.  Holy Cow, did I fall in love.  I deluded myself into thinking that he was an actual member of the family and that we would meet some day after one of his concerts.  Herein lies the problem...he had been dead for awhile.  I asked my Mom when we'd be going to a concert and she looked at me like I had two heads. "He's dead!" she said.  Nice tact, Mom.  My five year old heart was broken and I never got over it.  I pretty much know every lyric that he ever sang.  Just try me! My cousin Jamie and I actually performed for the family as Elvis twins, passing out scarves and sloppy kisses to our fans (sorry, Jamie).  

More evidence of my nerdiness: I was singing Patsy Cline songs by the time I was eight in full pink suede, fringed glory.  Oh yes!! There are videos of me traveling around Florida as a Patsy impersonator in Star Search type competitions.  And you know what? You can still catch me singing "Walkin' After Midnight" around the house while vacuuming; minus the fringe.  Sadly, it no longer fits.   If it did, I would find a way to wear it.  My love affair with Patsy began when I saw the biopic, "Sweet Dreams," at the ripe old age of 9.  Jessica Lange made Patsy look so bad ass.  I decided right then and there that I too would learn to swear like a sailor, and learn to growl and yodel as well as Patsy.  My Mom was psyched when I started saying, "People in hell want ice water, but that don't mean they get it!" with squinty eyes and a southern accent. 

You see, I have always had the heart of a honky tonk angel. My secret desire is to sing at a bar, preferably one where people line dance and there are peanut shells on the floor.  It's a far stretch from my opera training, but a girl needs to have a dream, right? I ain't no Patsy, but that won't stop me from singing.  

Final documentation of my nerdiness: I am a little cuckoo for Cocopuffs when it comes to the Civil War.  Like I said, I do not belong in this era.  There is NOTHING more thrilling to me than to pour over the census records from 1860, or wade through files of Civil War military records.  My family has been in the U.S. for a long-ass time, so I have dug up some incredible documents and stories over the years about my ancestors.  I just about seized up the other night when I uncovered some military records on an amazing website called Fold3.  Fold3 contains millions of American military records dating all the way back to the Revolution.  Sadly, my ancestors fought on the wrong side of the War of Northern Aggression (Ha!) but I find the South's complete dedication to a morally bankrupt cause astounding.  My forefathers literally starved, endured dysentery, lost limbs, and went home with Typhoid Fever all because they believed that God was on their side.  There is a lesson to be learned here: pride cometh before the fall!

So that's me.  Freak flag flyin' high!  You know what the best part is about having lived long enough to be comfortable in your own skin?? You can embrace your inner freak and rejoice in what makes  So hoist your flag and find your bliss! 

And if you're really, really sweet, I may let your hear my inner Patsy one day.