Alone Again (Naturally)

By: Jeanne Reynolds

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As I began to think about this post, the title of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s 1972 hit song (yeah, fellow boomers, you remember it) immediately popped into mind. The lyrics are terribly sad; but, to me, the title itself is not.

Quite the opposite; in fact, spending time alone is a blissful luxury. More than that, it’s essential for those among us far down the introvert scale, and, well, completely natural.

That’s exactly what I’m doing this moment, and I don’t mind admitting that I’ve been looking forward to it for the past week. I have the world’s best husband and great friends, but sometimes nothing beats some quality time alone.

The list of things I may do over the next 24 hours is written only with a very light mental pencil with a very big eraser:

  • Eat exactly what I want, when I want. Shrimp at an outdoor table along the waterfront, or takeout pizza at home with my favorite summer rose?
  • Take over my husband’s special recliner (he’s not here, after all) and read while enjoying the marsh view as the tide comes in.
  • Do a little weeding and run the blower. Seriously, I love my little battery-powered blower. Talk about instant gratification.
  • Run a few miles early in the morning before it gets too hot. Or walk if I feel like it.
  • Watch whatever’s on the Food Network.
  • Catch up on Instagram posts, and post a few new photos of my own. Hmm, what time is that high tide?
  • Go to bed whenever I get sleepy,and wake up without an alarm clock.
  • Talk to myself way more than I speak to other humans.footprints-in-sand.jpg

I know, not too exciting. And looking back at that list, I realize I could do most of those things whether I’m on my own or not. Truth be told, I frequently do. I’m not antisocial or shy. It’s more about recharging my mental, emotional and physical batteries in the way I know works best for me: alone. Naturally.

A Vacation From My Vacation Planning

By: Azure Stilwell

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I think I need a vacation from planning our family vacation. It always starts with where do we get the money? Once we get that figured out, it then becomes a question of where do we want to go? There is always more than one suggestion to this question and at least one totally out of budget suggestion. Which means I will be trying with all my might and brain cells to figure out how to make the big request happen, and inevitably it won’t because again it is beyond budget. So, we will finally settle on a place, and then comes the part where everyone’s schedule has too match up. By this time, I am already worn out but must continue for the sake of a family vacation, because what is summer without one?

So, we have our budget, we have our place, and we now have our dates. Now onto what to do at said place so we don’t spend the entire time sitting in our hotel room or vacation rental trying to figure this out. I spend hours of time and research finding the perfect places to see or things to do. I almost have this down to a science now. Once our itinerary is set, we are ready to go. It is also at this point that I am slap worn out. This is why I am all for a vacation from vacation planning. I do love the time we get to spend together though so in the end I suppose it is worth all the time and effort.

Hope you enjoy your summer vacation!

Stop and Smell the Roses, and Share Them, Too

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Working in a primary election some 10 years ago, a fellow poll worker, Mr. Gene Garvin, went home at lunch and came back with a gift: a Confederate rose plant. Not being a gardener, I was unsure what I was in store for when I accepted this rooting, simply a stick with a few leaves in a pot. I had no idea this nice gift from a retired Southern gentlemen would lead to a longstanding love for this special plant.

The Confederate rose, scientifically known as Hibiscus mutabilis, is an old Southern favorite. As I mentioned, I’m not much of a gardener, so I just planted it and waited to see what happened. No special care, no fertilizer, nothing. I was amazed how well it grew, and as it did, I thanked my benefactor with a card. It turned out to be the first of several over the course of that first growing season.  I was simply amazed at how well the plant did, and when it first bloomed, I was like a proud plant mama. True to Mr. Garvin’s word, the flowers started out white, and as they aged, they turned pink. Amazing!

I love to take a white bloom with me to work, and place it in a little vase so I can watch in go from bright white to pink in the course of 36 hours.

I was so proud of my plant, I shared my success with a friend, who was also a Master Gardener. “Oh, heck, Mary Pat,” she said. “A Confederate rose is so easy to grow it may as well be a weed.” I was crushed. Still, every year I delight over this wonderful plant/shrub/tree.

In memory of Mr. Garvin, I still root Confederate roses, and this year, I’m going to share them with friends who don’t have one.  At one time, I had a Confederate rose 101 sheet. I was looking for it today when I decided to start a new one, which morphed into this post. I’m still looking for the 101, so I can include it with the plants I’m gifting.

For now, consider yourself lucky if you have a Confederate rose bush, and if you don’t have one, see if you can get a branch to root from a friend.

Do you have a special plant that someone gave to you? How do you celebrate it? Do you share plants with friends?

I’m A Mutt

By: Stacy Thompson

People like to say that a person takes on the physical or emotional embodiment of his/her dog—if that were true, at one time or another I would have been described as a stout, menacing, but sweetheart of a Rottweiler (OK, so not far off); a placid, neurotic, scared-of-everything Lab-mix (way far off); and a Cheeto-lovin’ doe-eyed, gotta-follow-you-everywhere-you-go gangly Rottie-Lab mix (yeah, well, I’m OK if you want to go into a room unattended, but I do love some Cheetos). I’ve been the happy Mom to both pure-bred pups and mixes; and although we share the same penchant for unconditional love, I can say with assurance that it ends there—but with both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in my rear view mirror, I am proud to say that I am a mutt in the best sense of the word.

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From Mom I have gained the desire to make a list and check things off, while going off-list and doing (climbing, jumping, running, hiking, venturing) beyond that which is expected. She taught me to plan ahead but to never be afraid of the unplanned, as that is where life is lived and loved. She taught me that even if you follow a guide you can pave your own path and attain more than what even you think is possible. This was a woman who upon receiving her Medicare card decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro—pretty big accomplishment, for sure, but only one adventure in her many roads and paths (stay tuned, she’s not done yet!). And most importantly, she showed me that everything is possible; and in case it’s not attained, she will always have my back!

From Dad, after my teen-year eye-rolls were done, I learned what compassion, patience and hard work can bring—not just financial security but a soulful peace and satisfaction of a job not just well-done but a job done well, for others. I learned from him that laughing at yourself can be the funniest and most stress-relieving act ever, while laughing with someone can bring the greatest joy. I inherited his corny sense of humor, terrible knees, gonna-burn-before-you-tan skin and his need/drive to help whoever and  wherever possible—not just to accomplish a task, but to create a vocation, a calling, that makes each day worth it.  And finally, I know for sure, to paraphrase his own words, “I may not know where I’m going, but I’m making good time.”

So this mutt wants to spend this post thanking the two most important people in my life—they make it fun and fabulous not only to work hard but to play hard, while enjoying each equally. Every day is a treat when they simply walk into a room, and, much like my pups, I get excited every time!

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Father’s Day from your Mutt! Love you both!

Molding Words

By: Shannon Boatwright

One of my incredible, honors drama students was recently accepted into the SC Governor’s School for creative writing. This is not an easy program to get accepted into.  This particular young lady is wise beyond her years and always impresses me with her smarts and her skills. She happens to be a fabulous actress. A natural. I discovered recently that she is a writer and a really good one. I have to admit that I’m sad I did not really discover this talent of hers until the end of her 8th grade year. I too, love to write. I enjoy the challenge of putting words together in such a way that it grabs people’s attention, even hopefully inspires them or makes them think. This brilliant young girl and I share a love for writing, whether writing for ourselves or for others. I love her style, I love her wit. I wish I could share more of her writing here, especially the entry that got her accepted into Governor’s School. But for now, I’d like to share just a little taste with you readers – a bit of a tease if you will. Her name is Melissa Cripe. In the years to come, as she continues to create success for herself, I have a feeling her name will be known. My hope is that she will never stop building on those natural talents of hers and that she will continue to shine and share her artistry!

I am young, I do admit. I don’t have fifty years of experience under my belt, making me see the world in a point of view that makes everything have twelve different meanings, each one worse than the last. I’m not going to spill some philosophy that no one wants to hear. I can’t promise you that you will want to hear this, but I am going to try to make it worth something. Because there are very few truths in the world, and here’s one. Words are just words, no matter how fancy and sophisticated they are. Words can be molded into anything you want, but they don’t have to mean anything. Most of the time they don’t mean anything. That’s what writers are here for. They make words into something that may hold a little bit of weight in society. They make words into something that may mean something to someone. Words are a writer’s paint and paintbrush, music and instrument. A writer isn’t given fancy tools to work with. Nothing to spend a lot of money on and nothing that will improve their writing with its price tag and fancy material. All writers have is words, and dang is that hard. But I am here to bend my words into something that might help simplify this place we call the world. I am only 14, but that means my view of the world is untainted. I say things as I see them, not as I have heard others say they have seen them. So, if my words don’t agree with yours, write something of your own and see where that takes you.

                                                                                                Written By Melissa Cripe

Love is …

By: Jeanne Reynolds

My husband and I just celebrated our 24th anniversary. Our wedding was traditional: I wore white, the processional was Pachelbel’s Canon in D, and the scripture was I Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

I’ve been to many weddings where those verses were read. They’re always beautiful, but perhaps even more meaningful now than they were 24 years ago. I think it takes awhile to realize how true, how important and how aspirational they really are.

It’s not as easy as it sounds to live up to these verses. Keep no record of wrongs? How many of us haven’t sighed in exasperation because we’re apparently the only one who can see the kitchen trash can needs to be emptied — again? Does not dishonor others? Ever heard someone making the person supposedly dearest in the world to him or her the butt of a joke? Does not delight in evil? Has a self-satisfied “I told you that wouldn’t work” ever crossed your lips?

My husband isn’t perfect, but he does a much better job of living these words than I do. I’m going to keep trying, and trust he isn’t keeping record of my wrongs.

Also, here are few modern translations I’ll add from our marriage:

  • Love is rooting for someone else’s birdie putt to drop even if it means you’ll lose the hole.
  • Love is spending time with each other’s sometimes-crazy families without complaining.
  • Love is saying thank you for every meal prepared, even the less-than-stellar offerings.
  • Love is commenting — or not, depending — on a new haircut.
  • Love is not commenting on the recently snugger fit of a favorite old pair of jeans.
  • Love is hours of yard work side by side when the temperature is exceeded only by the humidity.
  • Love is silently buying a replacement when someone accidentally throws away a piece of the lawnmower.
  • Love is letting someone else have the last Klondike Bar.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Finally Finished

By: Chaunte McClure

For at least the past four years, I’ve looked forward to graduating from Erskine Theological Seminary. Now that graduation has come and gone, it seems surreal. But how can that be when my mind, soul and body have longed for rest from the circle of studying, writing, and reading? For the past six years, I’ve been immersed in Bible, theology, history, and practical ministry and consumed by exams and research, exegetical and response papers. As of Saturday, all of that came to an end. Sort of.

The closer I got to finishing seminary, the more challenging the course became. Senioritis on top of weariness, kicked into high gear in the fall and revved up a notch this spring. With only one class to complete, an annoying sinus infection in April led to my getting behind with one of my weekly assignments. I moved forward, completing the remaining homework and finally decided that I just wasn’t going to reach back to make up the missed book report. One of my classmates, who considers me OCD, was shocked that Chaunte McClure was going to settle for (I’m ashamed to say it!) a zero. I was mentally drained. I was just ready for the class to end and for 10 a.m. May 20th to arrive. One day before graduation, I found myself sitting in the hotel room trying to write that three-page paper. Days before, such a conviction came over me for not completing that one assignment. Unfortunately, at the same time, I was battling another self-diagnosed sinus infection and all I wanted to do was lie in bed after struggling through the workdays. By Friday, I was feeling better and had plenty of time on my hands so I finally began crafting a few words for an introduction. That’s about as far as I got. Commencement was the next day. Even after the graduation ceremony I longed for was over, I could not shake the guilt. On Monday, May 22 when I arrived home from work, I wrote the rest of that book report and submitted it to my professor with a note of apology and confession. It won’t even count towards my grade, but a burden is lifted from my heart.

So long homework. Goodbye evening, Saturday and online classes. Hello to my family and friends whom I’ve not spent much time with in the past six years. Let’s do something together often.

My time at Erskine Theological Seminary has been a great one. It has prepared me for ministry doing whatever and wherever God leads. Until then, I want to rest, spend time with others, fulfill desires I’d put on hold, and read and study at my leisure.

Many have asked, more times than I count, if I am returning to school to earn a doctorate. No. I can’t even wrapped my mind around the idea.