Friday, September 23, 2016

Looking Back to Look Forward

Mama's Place, Magnolia Cemetery
I recently went back and read my first post on this blog (August 2010). At the time, I had only been living in Washington state for 5 months and I was having a hard time settling into my new life. I was super far from the people I loved and nothing was familiar to me. I was also still very much grieving the loss of my mother just a year or so before to Cancer.

I realized as I read the post that I am going through the same transitional period now as I was back then. I did move "home" but everything has changed so much in Charleston over the past six years that it doesn't feel like "home" anymore. I think it really stopped feeling that way when my mom died. She sort of embodied that feeling for me, so when she passed it was very hard to find that place of comfort again.

Now that I'm back, I am going through that limbo again - I don't know where I belong and I miss all of those people I grew to love in Washington that I don't get to see almost every day anymore. I miss the long days of summer, the cool chill in the air as fall approaches, and even the possibility of snow in winter for the holiday season. The heat in Charleston is easing, but the autumn nights are still too muggy and warm for my taste. No matter how much I want this place to feel like home, it just doesn't.

As I read later posts, I realized my outlook and experiences improved over time. Once I began to explore the area where I lived in Washington more and gained my footing, I fell in love with my new location. Granted, I had never been out of South Carolina and as far as I know, my mother had never lived anywhere on the west coast, so maybe that helped me get through the transition. I don't know. However, being back in South Carolina where the familiar and unfamiliar weave together daily I never know where the day will lead. Some days, I am grateful to be close to family and old friends, and other days I miss Washington so much I want to gas up my car and head west ASAP.

One thing I learned re-reading the older posts is that my faith things will get better is the one thing that still holds true. Life is short enough and I (*hopefully*) still have a lot of life left to live. I don't want to live it wishing I was somewhere else or stressing that I feel so out of pocket in my own hometown (which I do). I feel like I don't belong here, but I don't know if I would feel differently in Washington. I loved Washington and I miss it, but even there I missed my family all of the time. Maybe the problem is that I don't miss a PLACE; maybe instead I miss a PERSON who was integral to that feeling of belonging and home - my mother.

Now that I am back in Charleston, I find myself thinking of my mother so much. I think of our times at Folly Beach, all of our favorite restaurants, and even some of the places we lived before. It also brings me back to how different my life was before all of the Cancer stuff. It was pre-2006 and I had reached a sort of peak in my career in hospitality as a manager at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. I was actually making more money than I'd ever made in my life, and living downtown in an awesome 2-bedroom townhouse below Calhoun (an amazing spot for a barely-out-of-college-kid). I lived with my best friend, I worked all night and had my days free, and my mother had just moved back from Houston. Then, my mother was diagnosed with Cancer and everything spun out of control.

Fast forward to this time ten years ago - so just 4 months after she was diagnosed with what was supposedly Stage I/II Esophageal Cancer - and you'd find my mother just finishing her first round of chemo and radiation. It had been a grueling summer for all of us, starting with a botched feeding tube surgery by an incompetent Physicians Assistant in June. My mother almost died during that fiasco, but somehow still managed to recover enough to go through 8 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. She was as tough as they come, so I wasn't that surprised she weathered through like a seasoned pro.

I took a massive cut in pay when I changed jobs, but it was necessary to ensure I was there for my mother - and I would do it all over again if given the choice. I struggled with my new job and the schedule I was keeping: 7am treatments and then working 12pm-9pm every day. My mother lost weight, struggled to eat (until we found pancakes with LOTS of syrup seemed to be palatable to her), and mostly slept the days away until she finished treatment. I gained weight, eating what she couldn't, and worried nonstop if this was it. I was 27 and not at all ready to live a life without my mother.

We had hope we'd gotten the best of Cancer. We had been through what we thought was the worst of it and the world, though tinged with pain and sadness, still seemed bright and full of possibility. We didn't know what was to come. We didn't know my mother wouldn't see me turn 30 or my brother's family grow to include three lovely children. We didn't know how much it would all change in a decade. Seven years later, I recognize I am still so unsure of myself every day. The life I had wanted and gone after included my mother, so finding a new path without her has been a tremendous challenge. I have had successes and failures along the way, and I keep hoping it will get easier but it hasn't so far.

I am so fortunate to have my father, aunts, brother, sister-in-law, nieces, nephew, and cousins to love me and remind me I have a place with them. I just miss my mother so much, especially now that I am back in her old stomping grounds, that it's hard to focus on the people around me who love me and are there for me. I'm trying, and I'll keep trying forever-and-a-day.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Autumn Nostalgia

Shannon Falls, Sea-to-Sky Highway, British Columbia
When I decided to move home earlier this year, it was an exciting prospect. I had been home a few times since I moved to Washington in 2010, and every time I came to Charleston it was a time of happiness and joy. It wasn't hard to be here without my mother who passed in 2009 because I was never here long enough to dwell on the fact that I was here and she wasn't. I got to visit with family I missed dearly, and I got to go to some of my favorite places - downtown Charleston and Folly Beach for example.

When I did come home to visit, my schedule was chock full of dinners and lunches at yummy places with my favorite family members and friends. It was like having a little bit of a personal parade every time I came home, which I think happened because no one knew when I could travel the 3,000 miles again to come back. I think this, in turn, skewed my perception of how things would be once I was living here again.

Now, I am here 24/7 and I am DEFINITELY not on vacation. I miss my friends in Washington dearly, and I miss my job at Barlean's. I think aside from the amazing people I worked with every day (Josiah, Summer, Claire, Erin, Laura, Sozan, Barbie, Kristy, Renee, the list is endless), I also loved the work I did and the schedule I had (hello, 6am-2:30pm Monday through Friday). Now, I work weird hours (3:30pm-12am) on weird days (Wednesday to Sunday), and I feel like I never get to see the people who make my world go round as much as I want to (if at all). In truth, I feel like I was on vacation in Washington for the past four out of the six years I lived there, and living here has been a bit of a harsh reality (the struggle is real, folks). To be honest, since I moved here, I have tried to figure out how in the world I can find a way to move back. Isn't that crazy?

As we head into the fall season, living in the land of perpetual sun and humidity is nothing compared to watching the colors of autumn take over the landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. Charleston is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but it is vastly different from upper northwest Washington. The waterfalls are spectacular; the burning hues of the season emblazon every tree with unabashed artistry; and I have never felt closer to who I wanted to be than I did when I lived there. The Pacific Northwest has left an indelible scar on my heart I don't think will ever heal (nor do I want it to).

Since arriving in Charleston, I have weathered financial struggles thanks to the massive cut in pay from one side of the country to the other; I have struggled through the anxiety of at least three tropical storms; I have dealt with the lack of personal contact with individuals who once were a very large part of my life before my mother passed; I have had a promising romance blow out shortly after the first date; and I have embraced living 20 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches ever without frying my skin off of my bones (now THAT is an accomplishment!).

It's been tough, but there are perks. The beaches in the PNW will NEVER hold a candle to the beaches in Charleston. Being closer to family (like 3 minutes instead of 3000 miles) is important. For example, after having a rough couple of days with banking drama (thanks for that, SunTrust) and charge disputes (Comcast is horrific at providing quality customer service), I called up my dad and popped by to see him for a few minutes. I got much-needed facetime with one of my MOST FAVORITE people (Dad, you are the best), and a couple of hugs to help me soldier up and push forward. I couldn't do that in Washington, so I know these moments are precious. I have also connected with family on my dad's side, I'm just a half-day's drive from my brother (gotta go seen them SOON), and little-by-little I am getting around the area more when I can.

It's hard living on a budget when I didn't have to for so many years, but then again living in the Pacific Northwest was kind of like living on another planet at times - financially, politically, and even in terms of how people treat each other. I still stand by the fact that I have never met more drama-free, kindhearted people in my life than I met in the PNW. In Charleston, I think the heat and humidity makes people crazy so drama-free just isn't reality (or at least that's my theory).

So, here's to the fall season with pumpkin spices, Halloween tricks and treats, Thanksgiving delights, family gatherings, better schedules, better finances (hopefully), and everything in between. It has been a summer of struggle for me in the South; I hope the fall will be far, far better.


Friday, September 9, 2016

September Reflections

Tonight I find myself thinking of New York City. It may be because where I work I get to talk to people in this fine city all day long. They are fast-paced, enthusiastic, and charged like lithium batteries ready to run until time stops. They keep me on my toes and make what could be mundane work more interesting. Or it could also be because it is only two days until the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Either way, I definitely have a New York State of Mind - at least for tonight.

I still remember the first time I went to NYC. I was a twelve-year-old nerd girl on a field trip with my ACE (Academic Creative Enrichment program) class. We were there an entire week, and the electricity in the air was both contagious and intoxicating - even at 12. I came home with one goal in mind: move to New York City as soon as possible. 

Our class toured the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, which I could not do because of claustrophobia and a fear of heights, and we saw some Broadway shows. We had dinner in Chinatown, which was better than I ever imagined, and we all hit the deck when a passing car backfired like a gunshot. It was the early 90s and we were terrified we'd die in the Big Apple. I think we'd all seen one too many mafia films!

The one tour that resonates with me, especially now, is the one we took of the World Trade Center and United Nations. It is my one regret that I did not take more pictures while we were there, but never in my wildest imaginings did I think these buildings of steel and glass would one day not be there. At least not in my lifetime anyway. I think we all imagined as we walked around with oohs and ahs at the concrete garden of the city that the towering monuments of men surrounding us would reside there forever. 

If you told my 12-year-old self then that this city and this country would be so drastically different less than a decade later, I promise you I would've asked you where the hidden camera was. I would not have believed you; and some days I still find the immense tragedy of 9/11 and our world since that fateful day hard to understand. Well, most days to be honest. 

I have only been back to New York City once since my visit in seventh grade, and it was more of a drive-by than an actual visit. I waved hello to the city that still held my twelve-year old heart and wondered how my dreams had changed so much in less than ten years. It was 1998 and I was living the exact OPPOSITE of the life my pre-teen self dreamed of. I didn't go away to college. I didn't move out at 18. I didn't really think about life on the grand scale a place like NYC requires. I worked with what I had and built a life the 12-year old me probably wouldn't like. It wasn't exciting, and it still isn't. 

I only stay up late now because I work until midnight. I don't really like movies or TV shows with a lot of cursing. I don't date. I don't go out much except to work, grocery shop, go to an occasional movie, and buy pet food - I feel like I am ALWAYS buying PET FOOD. I have bills and stress and things a 12-year old doesn't know much about - or at least I didn't know about at that age. I think if I met the 12-year old version of me now, she'd probably cry. She had a lot of dreams and ideas about how the world worked, but I don't think she was right about much. I was a naive kid, and sometimes if you catch me on the right day I am still pretty gullible about life. 

Maybe we all were before 2001. Maybe that's how it all got so screwed up - we just never believed it would or that it could change. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Hermine: All Bark, Little Bite

Isle of Palms: Colors Before the Storm © by Tara Goodyear

It has been less than four months since I moved back to South Carolina, and the weather has been quite interesting. Tropical Storm Bonnie ushered in summer and Memorial Day weekend, while Hurricane Hermine snuffed the season (and Labor Day) out with all the Weather Channel predictions. 

Fortunately, both storms left the Lowcountry with a lot of wind and rain but not much else. Downtown Charleston and other low-lying areas flooded (of course), but my little neck of the woods did just fine. 

The high winds Hermine brought with her reminded me a lot of the wind storms in the Pacific Northwest. Each year, usually the first week of November, the winds would gust upwards of 50mph, wreaking havoc on trees and humans alike. However, I found the wind storms sort of ushered in much cooler temperatures with one big blow, and the refreshing breath of winter hung in the air afterwards. Often, I watched from the balcony of my apartment as the winds whipped through the apartment complex and residing trees around us. Rarely did the trees break until last year after a very dry summer. I hate the sounds of trees breaking - I imagine it is similar to the crack a bone makes when it snaps. 

Before Hermine made her brief appearance, I ventured out to the Isle of Palms to catch the sunset. The sky was one of the prettiest I have seen since my return to the area, and I fortunately was able to capture a picture or two while I was there. The Atlantic was worked up with the pending storm down the coast, and the riptide was grabbing at everyone who dared step foot in the water. I played a little in the cooler-than-I-expected waves, but the undertow was strong and I knew better than to tempt fate. 

Hermine has continued up the east coast and is ruining a lot of people's Labor Day weekend plans I'm sure. She threatened to be a lot more aggressive than she turned out to be, thank goodness; but I am still a little unsettled by my return to the land of summer storms and hurricanes. The cooler temperatures which followed in her wake were both immensely pleasurable to me and far too reminiscent of the PNW I miss so much. Every now and again I check the weather there and long for those long-sleeve-wearing temperatures. 

Did I live there too long to still love it here? Only time will tell.

Friday, August 26, 2016

New Address, New Job, New Challenges


As some of you may know, I recently moved back to South Carolina. It was a great road trip, and I had the opportunity to see much during the 10 days I took to move back from Washington state. I arrived on May 4th and had an interview on May 6th, which I was very happy about since I had not been able to line up work before my big move.

As of this week, I have completed my 90 days at IHG, the InterContinental Hotels Group, in Charleston and already I have been promoted internally. It has been a very positive experience thus far, and I am so grateful I found quality employment so quickly. There are great perks and the work is thriving, which is always beneficial. My one challenge, though, is how much I miss Barlean's and all of my awesome co-workers back in Washington. 

When I first moved to Washington, it was so hard. I had never lived anywhere outside 30 miles of Charleston, SC and it was definitely a culture shock to say the least. But in a good way. The people I met in Ferndale, WA are still some of the nicest, most honest, hardest working people I have ever met. They are salt-of-the-earth, lifelong friends I believe in the depths of my soul I will know for the rest of my life. So, a little distance doesn't hurt the relationships though I sorely miss seeing them daily the way I used to just a few short months ago. 

The first two years in Washington were a struggle in a lot of ways, but once I got my job at Barlean's everything moved in a much more positive direction. I was supported in my work, I was successful there, and financially I earned more there than I have ever earned in my life. I worked hard for it, but the work was so rewarding I didn't care. It also helped knowing I worked for a company who was making an effort every day to do good in the world. This is a heady thing, I must confess, to know you are part of a bigger and much more meaningful journey with a company in comparison to some of the jobs I have had in the past.

I enjoyed what I did and I grew so much both professionally and personally. I enjoy my work now, but it is much different than what I did with Barlean's. I remind myself of how much I have accomplished and how the beach is just 23 minutes away, which helps. But honestly, I am homesick almost every day for the life I built from the ground up in Washington. 

When I lived in Washington, I missed my family dearly and I know moving home was the right thing to do. However, now that I am here, I realize I missed the people, yes, but I also missed the life I had before I lost my mother. So much has changed just in the past six years, let alone 10 years, and I think somewhere along the way I didn't keep up with the pace of all that was changing. I do not regret the time I had with my mother, not matter how hard or sad or challenging it was. It was the best and worst time of my life, and I would only change it now if it meant she could still be here. But when I think about it all, I can see that I put my life on pause from age twenty-five/six to thirty and I think I somehow thought in the back of my mind that everyone else paused their lives too. Now that I am back home, I have realized I have much to catch up on and learn all over again. It is overwhelming at times, to say the least.

I have a lot of good things to be thankful for, and I cannot say enough how much going to the sandy beaches of South Carolina soothes my restless soul. But the rocky shores of Washington state and raging waves of Rialto Beach have called and continue to call to me every single day I am so far away from them. Maybe someday I will move back to the Pacific Northwest if life allows, but who knows? What I had there has already changed in so many ways, so maybe I would feel the same way if we moved back. I don't know. 

For now, for this moment, I am relearning to love where I am in the present.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me!

In two days, I will turn 37. Another year has flown by at a neck-breaking speed, and I find myself both eager for what this next year brings and dreading the fact that I will be officially 3 years away from 40.

I don't care about the aging part so much as I do knowing what I have accomplished so far and all I still want to do. 40 is not a cut-off by any means, but let me be completely honest: I thought I would've been in a much different place in my life by now. You know, the whole shebang - career, family, etc. I guess LIFE had other plans.

This year, I am excited to spend my birthday with family - something I have not had the opportunity to do since 2009. I will get to see both of my paternal aunts and also spend an amazing time in Myrtle Beach with my dad and his fiancee. Two of my favorite birthdays were spent with my family in Myrtle Beach, so I am definitely looking forward to some fun in the sun!

Since last July, I have made quite a few changes. I have moved across country (again); I've started a new career with IHG; and I have begun writing a new Young Adult Fantasy novel - my 4th novel to date. I am still an unpublished author at this time, but I am working hard to change that every day. I am still adjusting to being back in South Carolina, which is a HUGE difference from the little town in Ferndale, WA where I previously lived. The traffic is crazy, and the heat is almost unbearable at times. I haven't lived in this kind of humidity since 2010, and wowsers is it HOT, HOT, HOT!

My hopes for the coming year are to finish my book, see progress at work, and hopefully get settled in better in my new apartment. I cannot wait to enjoy my birthday celebration with my family, and I definitely am looking forward to everything the next 365 days will bring.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

From One Coast to Another



On April 25th, my best friend and I embarked on a 4,000+ mile road trip to move back to South Carolina. For several weeks I had planned and plotted our trek, and I am pleased to report our trip went off without a hitch!

Our trip took 10 days as planned and included driving Highway 101 along the northern California coast, a trip to the Redwood National Forest (all four locations including the Avenue of the Giants), a drive along the south rim of the Grand Canyon, a visit to my brother's family in Albuquerque, and a quick lunch with my best friend's grandparents in Mississippi. 

Unlike our move to Washington in 2010 which included several flat tires, a busted hitch, and an overblown gas budget, this trip was everything we wanted it to be - smooth asphalt seas with no missed exits or delays except for my 4-cylinder's struggle with pulling a 6x12 U-Haul trailer up a mountain range or two. The sites were breathtaking and unforgettable, especially the Redwood trees, Highway 101, and the Grand Canyon. I also loved seeing my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew - those kiddos are growing up so fast!

We arrived in South Carolina on May 4th and went straight to our new apartment complex to sign our lease. We spent one last night in a hotel in town, which was a good thing because we were way too exhausted to unload our U-Haul. The next day, two amazing people *our buddy, Ashley, and my cousin, Brad) came over to help us unload our trailer, and I will be forever grateful for their hard work and helping hands. They did in 1.5 hours what would've been an all-day affair for the bestie and me. 

Next up we had our new bed sets delivered so we had somewhere to sleep going forward, and we began the arduous process of unpacking - something we are STILL doing. It is unbelievable how much stuff we have even after we got rid of SO MUCH! We are limited by way of furniture, but my dad gave us a cute dining table that fits our apartment perfectly (thanks, Daddy!).

Two days after we arrived in South Carolina, I interviewed and was hired at IHG - an incredible place to work. I am now in my fourth week with the company, and I am so excited about my new career. I still miss Barlean's and all of my lovely co-workers, but the change was necessary and good for me. 

Washington state has left an undeniable imprint on my soul. From the Technicolor landscapes to the kindest people I have ever met, it is a place and experience I will never forget. I hope to visit my friends there the first chance I get, but I know it will be some time before that happens. This first year will be a struggle, but I think that's normal with this kind of cross-country transition. 

It is strange being back in South Carolina. Everything reminds me of my mother and her absence. I am so grateful for the time I have been able to spend with my father, two of my aunts, a few of my cousins and a couple of my friends so far. I look forward to seeing others when time will allow, but mostly I am taking it slowly - this re-acclimation to a place I no longer recognize. I hope the strangeness and newness of it all will wear off, but only time will tell. 

In the mean time, I just wanted to say... Hi y'all! I'm BACK!!