Remembering Hugo, Awaiting Irma

By: Chaunte McClure

Today reminds me of that warm, late summer afternoon in September 1989 when the threat of Hurricane Hugo had South Carolina residents on alert. I was in the eighth grade and vaguely recall standing in the courtyard in front of our high school as the light breeze brushed our faces and mangled our hair as my friends and I talked about little of nothing.

Fast forward 24, or maybe 48, hours and my family awoke to a quiet house with no electricity or running water. That was the state of our community for a few days. Bottled water was not a household grocery item in those days when scrunchies and leg warmers were accessories.

With Irma on the horizon, grocery stores are trying to keep up with the demand for bottled water. I’ve heard story after story and I’ve seen photo after photo of empty shelves where 24-packs of water are usually stocked. I’m sure my grandparents filled empty milk jugs with water in preparation for Hugo. When that stock nearly ran out, we journeyed to Mr. Howard’s house to refill our containers. Mr. Howard still had an old hand water pump. Though weathered from years of outdoor exposure, that rusty pump poured some of the coolest, best tasting water. I doubt anyone in my hometown still has one except for use as antique décor in their flower garden. Before Irma makes landfall in Florida and maybe Georgia and South Carolina, I’m sure many people will probably reminisce about that throwback water source.

I was in my garage Saturday and discovered three bottles of the water left from the 1,000-year flood experience of 2015 when we were without water for about three days. I’ll use those first (not for drinking), should circumstances warrant it. Unlike in 2015, this time, I’ll remember to fill the bathtubs with water in case we lose power.

I’ve seen a couple other good tips on preparing for a storm on Facebook the past couple of nights, neither of which I’ve heard of before. One of my friends shared a post from delish.com with a tip on determining if the food in your freezer completely thawed during a power outage while you were away. Here’s the tip: “You put a cup of water in your freezer. Freeze it solid and then put a quarter on top of it and leave it in your freezer. That way when you come back after you’ve been evacuated you can tell if your food went completely bad and just refroze or if it stayed Frozen while you were gone. If the quarter has fallen to the bottom of the cup that means all the food defrosted and you should throw it out. But if the quarter is either on the top or in the middle of the cup then your food may still be ok.”  – Sheila Pulanco Russell

Another Facebook tip that has gone viral from a Facebook user is on substitutes for sandbags. Edward Sweat says, “Plastic bags [garbage bags] 1/3 filled with water make good substitutes for sandbags at doorways.” And in the event water enters your house, he advises using paint cans or five-gallon buckets to support and elevate your furniture.

At this hour, the path of the storm is still unclear, but the best advice I have for you is to be safe and be prepared when and if Irma arrives.

Back-to-School Excitement

By: Chaunte McClure

For the first August in seven years, I will not head back to (seminary) school. No more three-hour weeknight classes or eight-hour Saturday classes. However, I’m engaged in the thrill of gearing up for a new school year.

I’ve made a few trips to an office supply store to stock up on the one cent folders and composition notebooks. Last night I took advantage of the $5 uniform shirts and $6 uniform pants online. Because I waited until almost midnight to take advantage of the good deals, some of the items I planned to purchase were out of stock. Tomorrow I’ll rummage the rounders for the remaining items on my list, all in the name of being a blessing to some special little people in my life.

Besides the last day, the first day of school was probably one of the most exciting for me. The adrenaline rush usually kept me up late like Santa was coming to town.

I wonder if kids get excited about what to wear on the first day of school like we used to before school uniforms were required? I remember perusing the circulars for clothes I wanted (and almost never got) and planning my outfits. Uniforms must be a godsend for parents, and children too. Maybe it removes the peer pressure of having to meet others’ dress standards or being teased for how they dress or the clothing brand they wear. Based on my shopping experience, uniforms are certainly a less expensive option.

Moms, are you a fan of uniforms? Why or why not?

Rooted in Bringing People Together

By: Chaunte McClure

I would often hear Grandma say to family and friends, “I was thinking about you not long ago.”  My cousin and I would low-key think Grandma was just making conversation. Now that I’m older, I find myself often thinking about others and the good ol’ days. Like the ones we spent under the tree, just a stone’s throw from my grandparents’ house, where we made mud pies, let our imaginations run wild, and played all sorts of traditional and made-up games during the summer.

When we’d visit my great-uncle Fletchie in what we called the backwoods, most times we’d find him tending the garden or sitting under that old pecan tree. Air conditioning was a luxury in the 80s and folks knew how to take the heat. Others would probably argue that it wasn’t that hot back then. Regardless of opinion, that ol’ pecan tree was the setting for many conversations shared by family and friends. It’s still standing and family and friends still gathered there until recently.

I started thinking about those trees after a recent visit to Angel Oak, the famous tree on Johns Island that’s believed to be around 400 years old. I’m amazed that thousands of people travel near and far to see this tree. Though the Angel Oak just isn’t any tree, like many others, it’s rooted in bringing people together to make new memories and share old ones.

Every small town has a tree where friends, family, or old winos meet to shoot the breeze. Where is, or was, that tree in your community?

Penny Candy, Souse Meat, Liver Pudding & Bologna

By: Chaunte McClure

Last week I took a trip down memory lane, making a stop at the cinder block pale yellow or beige building on the corner of Highway 908 and what is now Paul Richardson Road. It was one of the mom and pop stores in Britton’s Neck where residents could conveniently buy general grocery items locally, since the nearest grocery store was almost 30 minutes away.

I spent many childhood summer days riding my bicycle to the Richardson Store, as my family affectionately called it. Grandma rarely sent me to buy anything, but I wanted to go sometimes to rack up on penny candy. I shamefully admit that I used to rob my aunt’s Maxwell House jar of the old pennies and other coins she collected in it. (I confessed my theft to her years ago, but it’s not like she hadn’t already figured out why her penny jar was dwindling.) I would take the time to count and wrap those pennies to present them to Ms. Mary or her husband, owners of the Richardson Store, to pay for my penny candy, Now & Laters and other cheap sweets that, over time, contributed to my cavities. I’d buy as much candy as I could for a dollar and share with the other grands at Grandma’s house.

I miss stores like the Richardson’s where you could go to the counter and ask for $2 dollars worth of souse meat, liver pudding or bologna. Let me tell ya, the pan fried bologna cut in the center would make for a good bologna sandwich. I remember for supper some nights we’d have just grits and bologna. It was filling and something quick and easy for Grandma to prepare.

Curious of whether my Facebook friends remember the mom and pop stores, I invited them to share in my nostalgia, posting a related question one night and surprisingly, many of them replied with places in the Columbia area where one can find fresh cut souse meat, liver pudding and bologna. Places like Conwell’s, Caughman’s and Mr. Bunky’s made the list. One day I’ll make a stop at one of those community staples and share my experience with you.

What were some of the mom and pop stores in your community?

Unfortunately

By: Chaunte McClure

Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and while some daughters were planning get-togethers, deciding what to buy Dad, or where to take him, there were also daughters (and sons) who were dreading the day’s arrival. Why? Because their father is absent, unavailable or unattached and they knew that day, like every day, would be a fatherless day.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 24 million children live without their biological father in the home. While some of them may have a relationship with their biological father, most of them don’t and the effects are alarming.

A few weeks ago I participated in a workshop for fatherless girls, where I shared my story of being a fatherless daughter. Through tears, I saw pain and through the words, I heard the pain loud and clear, coming from girls, mostly teens, who lack a relationship with their dads. When the facilitator asked one participant if her father is still living, her response: “Unfortunately.”

Unfortunately, too many children share this heart-rending sentiment. As a matter of fact, many adults do too.

It’s girls and women like these that I long to reach out to help. I was that angry little girl once and for years, she lived in me as an adult. Fortunately, in my twenties, I recognized her character and decided I didn’t want that angry little girl having a negative impact on my life, and as result, the life of others any longer. It is a journey, but a journey worth taking when that means having a more peaceful, purposeful life and bringing others along to join you on the journey to love, acceptance and forgiveness.

Though it does not fill the void, I usually honor someone on Father’s Day whether it’s a family member or someone I know and respect.

If you are a fatherless daughter, how do you respond to Father’s Day?

P.S. I’ve used the term fatherless daughter here, but I do understand that everyone has a biological father, but not everyone has the privilege to know their father or emotionally connect with him.

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.

When Are You Getting Married?

By: Chaunte McClure 

Single ladies, if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. When are you getting married? By now, the words rolling off someone’s tongue sounds like fingernails across chalkboards in your elementary school classrooms. Like those chalkboards, you want the age-old question to be a thing of the past. While I’m a married woman, I can totally relate. It’s like when people would often ask: When are you having a baby? Are y’all going to have kids? What are y’all waiting on? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! I’m sure many of you want to marry one day; some more than others, and you’d appreciate if family, friends, and colleagues would just wait for the day when you’ll announce that you’re getting married. Better yet, they should just mind their marriage, right?

Why are we so interested in other people’s womb and marital status? Is it merely just a way to strike up a conversation? Just a hello will do and sometimes that is enough.

With the high divorce rate in the United States, people have the right to remain single until they find the right mate. If you matter, you’ll know when they do.

Most of my friends are single and I took some time to chat with one of them about this subject. Here’s what my 42-year-old single friend, “Karen,” had to say about her experience with the dreadful question from inquiring minds.

Q: What annoys you most about being asked when you’re getting married?
A: I feel like the person asking me thinks I am lonely, I am unhappy, I am of age and should be married by now. Perhaps they’re thinking I should be trying to find someone because my time is winding down.

Q: How often would you say you’re asked?
A: I would say that I am asked this question by one person in particular every time we talk and that is the reason I do not talk to her that often, because I get exhausted trying to explain my “singleness.”

Q: Who usually asks?
A: My friends normally ask me this question and they are not married themselves, so go figure. I have older friends in their 50’s that also ask me. ‘Girl, you’re not married yet?’ ‘What are you waiting on?’ ‘You’re going to be too old after a while.’ Well, I have never heard or read anywhere where it states a particular age range when not to get married.

Q: What is your typical response?
A: I am happy exactly where I am in life. I don’t need marriage to complete me and make me happy. Where I am in my life right now is where I need to be for me.

Q: Tell us about a time when it made you sad or mad?
A: I was at a point when I was going through some major changes in my life and at the time I thought I needed a man to complete me and make me happy, so I became anxious. I found someone and it was the worst thing I could have ever done to myself. I did not allow him to find me. In Proverbs when a man finds a wife he finds a treasure, so I am waiting.

Q: Why do you think it’s inappropriate to ask?
A: I think that it is inappropriate to be questioned about it because it is the same as asking someone who does not have children when they are going to have a baby. It is none of your business and it is not in my control.

Q: I have to ask, why are you still single?
A: I am single because I know for a fact I am not ready to date yet…when I am ready, He will send him.

Are you guilty of asking your friends when he’s gonna put a ring on it? Are you the friend who is tired of being asked? Let me hear from you.