Get out – now!

By Jeanne Reynolds

A couple years ago, my husband hosted an awards trip for people from his department at work and their spouses. If you’ve read many of my previous posts, you know we’ve built our someday-retirement home in Beaufort and have fallen in love with the area, so he decided to hold the conference there. The group stayed at a charming bed-and-breakfast inn in the historic area, dined one night in a wonderful waterfront restaurant and another in the moss-draped backyard of a century-plus-year-old home. Throw in some carriage rides, art galleries and strolls along the river walk, and a great time was had by all.

No, I’m not working for the chamber of commerce or visitors’ bureau on the side, so why am I telling you this? Because of the three dozen people on the trip, my husband and I were the only ones who had ever been to Beaufort before.

Big deal, you say, but wait: His company is based in South Carolina, with headquarters in Columbia. In fact, nearly everyone on the trip has lived in this state their whole lives. Yet they had never ventured the relatively short distance to check out a town Southern Living magazine and who knows how many other lifestyle publications can’t stop gushing over.

Admittedly, Beaufort isn’t exactly on the way to anywhere (except maybe Parris Island, and I doubt many Marines are reading this anyway). You pretty much have to mean to go there. But this is my point: South Carolina is full of wonderful places you have to mean to go to – beautiful, quirky, unexpected places you’ll never see unless you get up and go. And it’s so worth it.

Let’s take Yemassee, for example (it’s near Beaufort, by the way – giving you a two-fer here). Population 966, it’s home to:

  • A company that makes incredible (and expensive) granite-type countertops with oyster shells embedded in them.
  • The hauntingly beautiful ruins of the mid-1700s Old Sheldon Church, burned down in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
  • A golf club so private it makes August National look like a neighborhood open house.
  • A dive bar that serves weekly standing-room only steak dinners.
  • A farm that raises monkeys for pharmaceutical research.
  • An antique store that doubles as a deli and catering company.

 

Show of hands: How many of you have been to Yemassee? Or even heard of it? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m guilty, too. I’ve lived in this state for almost 30 years and I’ve yet to hear a performance at the Newberry Opera House or eat at Yoder’s Dutch Kitchen in Abbeville. And until just a few years ago, I’d never stepped inside the State House.avenue of oaks

Yes, I’ve seen homes decorated for Christmas in Camden, trod the trails at Historic Brattonsville and Congaree National Park, kayaked to Shell Island near Edisto and bought boiled peanuts at Snider’s Crossroads – but that’s barely scratching the surface of the oh-so-many places to see in our state.

Need ideas? (After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.) Find inspiration on the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism website, or Google “places to visit in South Carolina.” Or just get in the car and head to the next town over – the one you never go to because, well, it’s really not on the way to anywhere. Be sure to take the back roads, and stop anywhere that looks interesting.

Take a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon or a long weekend. Whatever you do, just get out and go. There’s so much more out there than you – or I – can imagine.

See here: Protect those peepers during DIY projects

By Jeanne Reynolds

Spring gets all the press for cleaning season, but there’s something about fall that makes me want to spruce up. Maybe it’s a need to prep the nest for the coming cold, or the likelihood of holiday visitors. Or maybe it’s finally cool enough to make manual labor a little less daunting (as in less sweaty).

Whatever the reason, a few days ago I had a home improvement experience that could have had disastrous consequences. Since this is, after all, a blog site tied to women’s health, I want to share it with you so you might avoid my mistakes.

cleaning-bucket-mld108211_sqA handyman was replacing weather stripping around the doors in our house. While the old pieces were off and before the new ones went on, I had a chance to clean off the grime in the doorframe. Regular spray cleaner and a paper towel weren’t cutting it, so I grabbed a sponge and my big bottle of household bleach.

You probably see what’s coming next. As I scrubbed directly overhead with that wet sponge, a large drip hit me right in the eye. Fortunately, it was more water than bleach, and I was steps away from a sink where I quickly rinsed my eye. Even so, it teared and burned for hours and my vision was slightly blurred the rest of the day. But could have been much, much worse: Getting chemical cleaners in your eye can cause a corneal ulcer or even blindness.

Chemicals aren’t the only dangers lurking out there for you and your family this time of year. See if any of these potential eye hazards are on your to-do list:

  • Cleaning out gutters and downspouts
  • Chopping wood for the fireplace
  • Trimming errant tree limbs and shrubs
  • Washing exterior windows and doors
  • Pointing up mortar around bricks or cracks in cement patios

All of these tasks involve serious chemicals, flying debris or both. And if you’re like me, you can’t afford to hire someone to take care of all your home chores. But going the DIY route doesn’t mean you can’t tackle these jobs safely. It just takes a little care, forethought and — ahem — common sense.

Number one tip: Wear protective goggles or glasses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends every household have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear for use during household projects, such as yardwork, that put your eyes at risk. Don those goggles while using toxic chemicals, too: Fumes from paint and cleaners can also damage your eyes.

In my case, I could also have protected my eyes by using my feet— as in going to the garage for a step ladder so I could work at eye level, not above it. Making sure you have — and use — the right equipment can make the job both easier and safer.

It might take a few extra minutes. And no arguing, those goggles aren’t exactly the height of fashion. But won’t it be worth the time and trouble to actually be able to see the fruit of your labors?

Be careful out there, folks.

One thing at a time: Happy Halloween!

By Jeanne Reynolds

I was in a large national discount chain store that shall not be named but whose name rhymes with Stall-Wart a couple weeks ago. This was September, mind you – and what to my wondering eyes should appear but … well, not quite a miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer, but most of what goes along with that. Yes, Christmas decorations. Lots of them. In September.

C’mon, people. We haven’t even had Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving or even the end of Daylight Savings Time (or is it the beginning? Whichever one is “fall back”) yet. Can’t we reign in our reindeer just a tad?

So I’m focusing on Halloween today. One of my favorite Halloween memories was when I was nine years old and my grandmother made me a genie costume. The TV show “I Dream of Jeannie” was all the rage in those days, and my name is Jeanne, so I just had to have that costume.

I Dream of JeannieAnd boy, did I think I looked good in it. Picture Barbara Eden (eek, I just saw online that she’s 86 now – my mother’s age) … except as a chubby nine-year-old … and plain brown hair instead of blonde … and a sweatshirt on top of the whole thing because it was cooold that Halloween night, even in our northern California neighborhood. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) no photo evidence remains to show you what a great costume it was.

And it would probably be a great costume even today (although a tad tight and short on my current adult frame). Halloween is an incredibly popular adult holiday these days. Travel & Leisure magazine even has an article on the best Halloween events and festivals of the year. (Spoiler alert: Greenwich Village, New York and West Hollywood, California top the list. Won’t be making either of those.)

Franz & HansMaybe you yourself are one of those people who can’t wait to dress up as a sexy French maid or sexy vampire or sexy anything (do you sense a theme here?). Apparently you have plenty of company. Personally, I’ve always favored creative homemade costumes, like the time my husband I donned gray sweatsuits and stuffed the thighs and arms with newspaper ala Hans and Franz of Saturday Night Live fame. Didn’t cost a dime, plus it was a lot more comfortable than a sexy costume. The only thing I had to worry about falling out was some crumpled newspaper.

And then there’s the candy. There are two camps here: Those who buy just enough for the expected number of trick-or-treaters, and those who buy extra … you know, so there’ll be leftovers. Since I tend to buy cheap candy or varieties I wouldn’t eat (because I will), I fall in the first camp. So consider this fair warning: If you want those miniature Hershey’s bars or SweetTarts, head next door.

At least it’s better than my former neighbors, the retired Army dentists. Yep, toothbrushes and dental floss.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

 

 

First World problems

By Jeanne Reynolds

Don’t you hate when people whine and moan about their lot in life, with apparently no perspective on what the rest of the world is dealing with and what’s really important?

I do, too. Even when — maybe especially when — it’s me doing the whining and moaning.

Florence flooding 2I just finished sending a long email to several family members with all the details about travel and accommodations for an upcoming reunion at the beach. As in North Myrtle Beach. And even as I explained all the wrinkles and complications that have come up because of Sister Florence, I knew there are tens of thousands of my fellow Carolinians (South and North) dealing with far, far worse problems post-storm. Instead of focusing on how inconvenient — and in one case, impossible — it’s going to be to get everyone where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there, I should be turning my thoughts and prayers on those folks whose homes and hopes have been washed away. I mean, I’m talking about a vacation trip, for goodness sake.

Here’s another example: As I write this, I’m sitting high and dry in my lovely marsh-front home near Beaufort (which thankfully was spared a full-frontal assault this time). Two good friends have just left after we enjoyed four great days together playing in a golf tournament. I followed a good round yesterday with an incredibly miserable one today and lost a match I could easily have won, which has left me well down in the dumps. And I have to seriously scold myself to remember how blessed I am to even be in this situation, in such a beautiful place, NOT dealing with storm damage and with the physical ability, financial resources and job flexibility to do this in the first place.

In fact, most of my so-called troubles in life are what you’d call First World problems. People in Third World countries struggle to get enough to eat and clean water to drink. Meanwhile I worry if my pants are getting too tight (too much to eat) and gnash my teeth over a malfunctioning irrigation system (plenty of water to spare). I have a mountain of laundry to do (well, really just a pretty small hillock) — while I sit in the air conditioning and push a few buttons so a machine can do all the work. I’m rehabbing a hip injury that’s kept me from running for the past month (if you’re a runner, you know this is BIG) — but I have health insurance plus a healthy enough bank account to get the treatment I need. And so far, my pants do still fit.

I know I’m not alone in this. Many (maybe even most?) of us do dwell on our own problems to the exclusion of others around us. It’s easy to lose perspective and forget these are gnats, not elephants, in my life.Florence flooding

I don’t know what the answer is, but one thing that couldn’t hurt is doing more volunteer work and making more donations to organizations trying to help some of those without enough to eat or drink, or whose homes are gone. I have to change my focus to change my perspective.

I’ll still have problems, First World or otherwise. But maybe, just maybe, they won’t matter quite as much.

Wishing my life away

By Jeanne Reynolds

As I write this, the wind is picking up. Every so often a gust blows through, whipping small tree branches and loudly rustling the leaves. And I know this is just the beginning.

But by the time you’re reading this, the storm will have passed — and I can’t help wishing I was already there in next week. “I can’t wait until Monday when the worst is behind us,” I think.

It’s hardly the first time. Last weekend I travelled halfway across the country to attend the memorial service for a favorite uncle. As much as I looked forward to reuniting with cousins I hadn’t seen in many years, the trip was long, stressful and tiring. “I can’t wait to get home Sunday night,” I thought several times before and during the visit.

Now that I’m back, I continue to look at what’s ahead on the calendar — even some really fun events including a family beach trip and several golf tournaments out of town — and find myself looking forward just a bit to having them behind me so life can get back to “normal.”

In fact, I seem to spend a lot of time wishing for some future time when everything will be better/easier/cleaner/organized/done: when I retire, when I move full time to Beaufort, when I get the house power-washed, when the cooler weather gets here. And on and on.

I don’t think this is the ideal way to live, and I know I’m not alone. Witness the plethora of advice online and in books and magazines for “living mindfully,” “living in the moment,” “minimalism” and “essentialism.” I get it: We aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow, and focusing too much on the future robs us of today’s joy.

If awareness is the first step toward change, I’ve got one foot planted out front. If you, too, find yourself falling into the habit of wishing your life away, here are some ideas from PsychCentral that might work for you.

mind-full-or-mindful

7 small ways to live more mindfully every day

  1. Connect to your senses. Being mindful is being more aware of the moment. It’s using our senses to pay attention.
  2. Meditate in the morning. Meditation is a powerful way to practice mindfulness.
  3. Savor the sips of morning. As you take your first sip of coffee, tea or another favorite beverage, use it as an opportunity to savor the moment.
  4. Rethink red lights. Instead of letting make you feel stressed or anxious, use the opportunity to practice deep breathing.
  5. Make handwashing mindful. Take that moment when the water hits your hands to breathe and feel the sensation of the water against your skin.
  6. Break patterns. Take a different route on your daily commute or try something different for lunch.
  7. Count blessings at bedtime. Train your brain to look for things that are positive by identifying three things you’re grateful for.

sunset-1815991_1920

 

Pawprints on my heart

By Jeanne Reynolds

It’s taken me more than a month to be able to write this. It’s just been too hard to talk about or even think much about. In late July, we lost our beloved cat, Walker.

When I say “lost,” that’s not entirely accurate, because we know exactly where he is: galloping across kitty heaven, hanging out on God’s screened porch, purring loud as a motor boat as an angel’s hand reaches out to pet him.Walker on porch

Like any loved one, he was only on loan to us. But it’s still been so hard to give him back.

I know anyone who’s lost a fur baby has felt this pain. The staff at the animal emergency room – who see it all the time – were especially caring and thoughtful. They sent us a card with sweet notes that bring back my tears even as I read them six weeks later:

“Cats may be small in size but their spirits are large.”

 “Pets are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

 “They leave our homes but never our hearts.”

“Some angels have fur instead of wings.”

They also enclosed a printed page with a wonderful message. Maybe it will someday also help you, a friend or a family member with tender paw prints on their hearts.

Our Friend, Our Family

WalkerFolks are born so they can learn how to live a good life. This takes a long time. Pets already know how to do this, so they don’t have to stay as long.

These are some of the things our pets have taught us:

  • Live simply, love generously, care deeply and speak kindly.
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Run, romp and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch your heart.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Walker on couchAlso on that card was written this note: “Our furry friends never leave us. They run ahead and wait.”

I’m looking forward to our next faux-wrestling match and hearing that motor boat purr again one day, Walker. I know you’ll be waiting.

Going retro: In praise of the pencil

By Jeanne Reynolds

My company kicked me out of my office, but I’m not taking it personally.

They kicked everybody (who had one) out of their offices. In fact, most of us don’t even have a regular desk any more. Instead, it’s first-come, first-served for a “flex worker” seat anywhere you want. I get there early so I can snag a prime spot by the window. I plug in my laptop, adjust the monitors and chair, and I’m in business. It’s part of a new open working concept that’s supposed to enhance collaboration. (Does it? I’ll get into that another day.)

Since I don’t have a fixed location, any “stuff” I don’t bring back and forth from home every day has to fit in a 20” x 20” locker. You know, project files, my stash of snacks — and my pencils.Color Pencil Pictures Pencils Images Colored Pencils Hd Wallpaper And Background Photos

I love pencils. I like the way they feel and even the way they smell. I do all my writing, and nearly all my other work, on a laptop, but I still use a pencil for my calendar because it changes so much. Do I hear snickering over there about using a paper calendar? Well, next time your Outlook calendar doesn’t update properly so you miss an appointment, or your phone battery dies so you can’t check a meeting location, the laugh will be on you. Oh, and you have to scroll forever to see next month or next year, while I merely flip a few pages. Plus, I don’t like recording my personal life on my work calendar.

At home I use a pencil for my grocery list. Any fans of adult coloring out there? C’mon, please tell me you don’t use pens. It’s got to be colored pencils. And of course, golf scorecards are always marked in pencil. Golf pen? That just sounds weird.

Maybe the biggest reason I love pencils is the back-to-school memories they revive. I loved school and eagerly looked forward to the first day each year. And nothing says “school” like a new, yellow #2 pencil.

Here are some fun facts from the Musgrave Pencil Company. (These guys know from pencils — they’ve been making them for 100 years):

  • More than 14 billion pencils are produced worldwide every year.
  • About 2 billion of those are used in the U.S. (Ha! I’m not alone.)
  • A million are used on the floor of the U.S. Stock Exchange every year.
  • John Steinbeck wrote his novels in pencil. Supposedly he used more than 300to write his novel, “East of Eden.”
  • Pencils have been around for more than 450 years — but erasers were added only about 100 years ago. Apparently teachers thought they’d encourage mistakes. Well, maybe, but not having one sure stymies creativity. (Maybe the teachers finally read John Steinbeck.)

So back to the new, modern, nearly paperless office: They got rid of all the pencil sharpeners.

Every. Single. One.

It’s probably important to mention most of the discards during this massive remodeling went to worthy causes, such as local schools and nonprofit organizations. Mountains of three-ring binders, hanging folders, file holders, paper clips … and, apparently, pencil sharpeners.

That’s left me feeling a little dull. But not for long: I’m putting a visit to the office supply store across the street on my calendar.

In pencil, of course.