Tag Archives: charleston

From The Lowcountry to the Upstate

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/from-lowcounty-upstate

Moving is difficult even when you are excited about moving.  This is going to be an adventure.  Read the post in the link above. 

Life Sentences for Folly Beach Victims’ Families

This is my article for OdysseyOnLine.  I was reminded of this story during a class exercise. In searching for more information, I discovered the challenges faced by the victims’ families.

You can read the article Life Sentences for Folly Beach Victims’ Families here. 

pics-of-girls

HoneySuckle, Sugar Cane, and High Tide

I have been blessed with 2 best friends who are not only friends, but they are “sister friends” or “soul sisters”. They both been dealing with challenging times recently. I am reposting this blog post from two years ago because this is a difficult day for my friend Carol, and for me as well. In the post, I mention her childhood home where I found support, love, acceptance, and a retreat from the chaos of my house. Today, Carol moved out of that house taking with her so many memories. I have been lazy about writing personally and for my blog. This reminds me that I want to capture all of these memories, and it is time to get back to my writing.

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Summer was a great adventure growing up.  I grew up along the banks of  the Stono River in Charleston, SC.  I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge.  It was a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through.  There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood.  There was a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood.  We had a dock in the back yard on the main canal that lead to the river.  The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.

I was almost 8 when we moved to that house.  There was only one other family with children at the time.  Carol was a feisty, freckle faced redhead just a couple of years younger than I.  We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day.   Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood.  Carol and I spent everyday together with few exceptions for next ten years.

The tides played a big part in planning our day.  At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the fiddler crabs.  The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat.   High tide in mid afternoon was the ideal.  We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner.   In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock.  A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle.  We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.

Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots.  There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came close to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit.  Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose.  We would sit and talk for hours.  We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.

We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines.  We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue.   We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot.  We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats.  The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems.  We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them.  We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies.  We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth.  We had several small jars filled with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.

We had a small store not far from our neighborhood.  It was also home to the post office.  Close by there was  a fresh vegetable stand.   We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week.  We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home.   After dinner we would  sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river,  pulling the husk away and chewing on cane to get the sweet sugary juices.   Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts.  We would buy bottles of Pepsi and a small bag of salted peanuts.  After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle.   The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.

When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share.  Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear and sadness were all things that filled my house.  Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood.   Those summer days gave me hope for something more.  Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back into her childhood home after her father died.  I go to the house, and we sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of those times.  We walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile.  We even stop to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.

 

Be The Change

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

“This is the Crisis Hotline.  How can I help you?”   I almost hung up when I heard those words on the other end of the phone.  I was angry, frightened, and lost.

“I tried to kill myself, but it isn’t working.”  I waited for a response.

“OK, let me get a counselor to help you.”

I didn’t think anyone could help, but I didn’t know what else to do.  A woman talked to me that night for a very long time.  I don’t remember everything she said, but I will never forget her compassion and caring that night.  She listened-really listened-without judgement or condemnation.   She saved my life that night.

Several years later, I made a decision to volunteer with crisis hotline in the town where I lived.   The 35+ hours of training consisted of learning active listening skills, crisis intervention skills, and more.   I was excited about answering calls and helping someone just as I had been helped.  Little did I know that one call on that line would change my life.

I was in an abusive marriage.  I knew I needed to leave, but I kept making excuses for staying.  One afternoon I answered a call from a women, who was hiding in a closet while we talked.  I stayed on the phone with her as I heard her husband banging on the door and screaming at her.  We were able to send help to her and get her out.  I don’t know what happened with her after that day, but as I talked with her I realized it could easily have been me on the other end of the call.  It was time for a change.

Within a couple of months, I left my marriage and moved back home to South Carolina for a new start. A couple of years later,  I saw an ad for a position as the Volunteer Coordinator for our local Hotline.   I was ecstatic when I was offered the job.  I have been blessed to part of the 2-1-1 Hotline here in Charleston, SC ever since.

The staff and volunteers are an amazing group of people. We have volunteers from every walk of life and every age range.  We have college students majoring in psychology or social work.  We have senior citizens who are retired and love talking with callers.  We have people from varied philosophical  ideas, from every political affiliation, from all faith and religious backgrounds, and more.  The common thread is a desire to help others.

People often ask what is required to be a 2-1-1 Hotline volunteer.  Here is what it takes:

  • Respect of others and non-judgmental attitude
  • Empathy or understanding
  • Level head and ability to stay calm in a crisis
  • Dependability and honesty

Our training program covers general counseling skills, crisis intervention and issue education to prepare you for the wide variety of calls you may take.  We ask for a commitment of4 four-hour shifts a month, with flexible scheduling 24 hours a day, for 9 months following the completion of training.

My friend and coworker, Sonia wrote a blog post about her experience with 2-1-1 Hotline as well.  You can read it here.   Sonia is the phone room manager and would love to talk to you about volunteering.  Our next training starts in June.

sonia on the phone_0

Call or e-mail today to set up an interview!! 211@tuw.org or 843-566-7186

 

 

 

Random Thoughts on A Winter Storm

bildeIce covers the trees in front of the Dorchester County Human Services Building Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 in Summerville. Paul Zoeller/Staff

A second unusual winter storm named Pax (Yeah, I don’t know when they started naming winter storms) blanketed my southern hometown of Charleston, SC with ice. Unusual is a rather mild word for this historic weather event.  We typically deal with hurricanes and tropical storms, not ice storms. When we woke this morning, the ground was wet with rain, but everything above 2 feet was frozen.  Icicles filled the tree branches where leaves once flourished.   As time moved on so did the ice in the trees and bushes until everything was beautiful, yet frightening shade of white.   Loud cracks and booms filled the day as branched broke and fell to ground shattering ice like broken glass on the ground.  Reports of power outages began filling social media and the news.  By early afternoon, we lost power at our house along with most of our friends in the area.  Schools, business, and bridges closed for the second time in just a few weeks.

The magical wintery scene outside my window was stunning as well as alarming. As I sat and watched the trees and branches bending under the weight of ice and blowing wind, I thought about my mother.   She spent most of her adult life in California and Nevada.  She claimed and cherished our Native America heritage and loved to share her knowledge.  When I lived in Nevada, we experience snowstorms frequently and ice storms from time to time.  When ice would cover the landscape, my mother would remind me of the Native American story of “pogonip”.  Pogonip is a Shoshone word meaning cloud or ice fog.  They also refer to it as “white death”.  The Shoshone know the dangers of people who become disoriented, get lost in the ice fog, and die from exposure.  The early settlers believed they could inhale the small white crystals into their lungs causing death. The beauty of the high desert when it was covered in the white crystals and the stories, fascinated my mother.

In the next day or so, the white cover of ice will melt and the Winter Storm Pax will become a memory to share with family and friends.  Each winter when the weather calls for snow or ice, we will talk about the year we had not one, but two icy winter storms. We will share pictures and memories, talk about the hours we spent without power in our houses, and debris covering our neighborhoods. We will even recall the beauty of a winter wonderland in our bit of the South.

The same thing happens when I think about my mother.  I remember her life and share pictures and memories.   I have been thinking about her more than usual the past couple of weeks.  September of this year will mark six years since she passed away.  I have often heard that grief touches grief; one grief event will trigger others.  This week in the same year my mother passed away, my childhood friend’s husband died unexpectedly.  Just a couple of weeks later, my best friend passed away unexpectedly, and a few weeks after that my childhood friend’s mother (my “other” mother) died.

The first part of March, I will be participating in an audition for LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: CHARLESTONThose chosen will bring their original, true accounts about motherhood to the stage.  I haven’t finished my piece for the audition, but in preparing, my thoughts have turned to my mother, and to others who became “mothers” to me during my life.  Just as I will with this year’s winter storms, I look back and remember those who touched my life,  sharing them others and telling the stories one more time.

Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season (*Jimmy Buffett)

As the first tropical storm of the season approaches our area, I thought it might be fun to repost this blog about Hurricane Season.

Cathy's Voice Now

 

The National Hurricane Center has officially named the first tropical storm of the season, Alberto, situated 110 miles southeast of Charleston as of 11 pm Saturday night.  Hurricane season doesn’t officially start until June 1.  Alberto must not have read the memo.

Charleston, South Carolina is a city rich in history, tradition, and Southern culture. Nearly 4 million visitors a year consider the Charleston area as their destination of choice, which is no surprise after taking into account its reputation for outstanding hotels, beach rentals, entertainment, and local cuisine.   Charleston has been voted the number 1 friendliest city in the country for several years in a row.  We once were designated the “Most Beautiful People” and another time the “Most Polite People.”

But, let’s not forget that we rate pretty high on the scale in many other areas. The CDC has rated South Carolina as 10th in the…

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HoneySuckle, Sugar Cane, and High Tides

Summer was a great adventure growing up.  I grew up along the banks of the Stono River in Charleston, SC.  I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge, a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through.  There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood on a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood.  We had a dock in the backyard on She Crab canal that circled straight into the river.  The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.

I was almost 8 when we moved to that house.  There was only one other family with children at that time, and we met the first week.  Carol was a feisty, freckle-faced redhead just a year and a half younger than I.  We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day.   Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood.  Carol and I spent every day together with few exceptions for next ten years.

The tides played a big part in planning our day.  At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the elusive crabs.  The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat.   High tide in mid-afternoon was the ideal.  We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner.   In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock.  A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle.  We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.

Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots.  There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came closest to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit.  Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose.  We would sit and talk for hours.  We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.

We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines.  We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue.   We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot.  We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats.  The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems.  We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them.  We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies.  We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth.  Over time we would fill several small jars with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.

We had a small store not far from our neighborhood.  It was also home to the post office.  Close by there was a fresh vegetable stand.   We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week.  We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home.   After dinner we would sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river,  pulling the husk away and chewing on the canes to get the sweet sugary juices.   Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts.  After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle.   The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.

When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share.  Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear, and sadness were all things that filled my house.  Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood.   Those summer days gave me hope for something more.  Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back to her childhood home after her father died, and  I would go to the house, and sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of the past.  We would walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile.  We even stopped to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.

Our lives have been filled with parallels including being born in the same hospital and being given the same name. (My name was Carolyn at birth and later changed)  Today, we both live with our daughters, who were born within just a couple of weeks of each other.  We talk every week without fail. Just recently we went to the memorial of an old friend from the neighborhood.  It was held just minutes from our old houses on the Stono River.  We stood together looking out at the river at sunset remembering our days of high tides, honeysuckle, and sugar canes.

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The Sky is Falling–Again–For Real

Tonight Feb 16

Rain / Snow Showers Early27°Low  Rain / Snow Showers Early    Chance of precip: 40%

Rain and snow tapering off this evening. Clearing overnight. Low 27F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of precip 40%.

I live in the south…the real south.  We have sweet tea, beaches, Palmetto trees, moss on trees, and the finest seafood around.  We are polite (to each other but not always behind your back), we say Y’all  (yes, it is so cute), and we will defend our southern ways to the death.  We are used to dealing with rain, thunderstorms, and even hurricanes.  What we don’t get is snow.  We do not know what to do when the weather channel and local weather stations say that dirty little four letter word.

We have a weather forecast including the word snow tonight.  It will not stick to the ground and there will be no accumulation.  Most people will be peering out of their windows waiting for those first few flakes to appear; if they can see them that is.   As soon as one is cited, the cell towers will be buzzing with the news spreading from one person to the next.   We will question each other to see if it is “sticking.”  We will just pray the roads stay clear.  The truth is those pesky bridges can become dangerous in wet, freezing conditions.  Haven’t you seen the signs?   images

I made a trip to the store to pick up a prescription and it took a long time to find a parking spot.  Once inside I saw people lined up at the deli counter and the bread isles were low on product.  You see, if we lose power from the massive flurries we must have food that doesn’t need electricity to prepare.    Strangers talked with each other about the looming dangers.   I could pick out the “Yankees” among the crowd.  They looked lost and confused.  Had they perhaps missed some weather alert from the app on the phone?   They whispered to each other and laughed.  They know what it means to have snow and this wasn’t it.

I made a quick trip to get what I needed and returned home to snuggle in my Sponge Bob Snuggie and settle in for the night.  I will miss Saturday afternoon and evening with my friends because while the snow doesn’t worry me,  the cold bitter weather is no match for my bronchitis ridden lungs right now.

I have lived in West Va, Maryland, and Reno, NV.  I know snow.  I have been in blizzards, shoveled more snow that I ever care to again, used lighters to heat car keys to unlock the door, scraped ice and snow off windshields, helped my daughter find her car in a huge snow drift, and put tire chains on my car.   I understand that no matter how wonderful your four-wheel drive SUV is, it is no match for ice on the road.    I am a southerner who isn’t afraid of the white stuff falling from the sky.

I have to admit that I do miss snow.  I miss making snowballs and snow angels.  I miss dressing up in 5 layers to go outside and play.  I miss sliding down hills on inner tubes.  I miss the beauty of the freshly fallen snow that leaves a blanket of white on the ground.  I miss it just enough to want it to snow on a Friday afternoon and linger throughout Saturday and then go away.   I don’t know if I will see any flurries, but  I will be one of the many who will be watching out my window to see if the sky does indeed fall tonight.

Move Number 56

No, not 56 moves in my life, just since I was 18 years old. The moves include 7 states and 25 different cities.  I don’t know how many there were before 18, but I did live in the same house from the time I was 7 until I was 18.  And before you ask, no, we were not military.

My first husband changed jobs or went to school just about every year.  After my divorce and time being a practicing alcoholic/addict, I moved several times.  Recovery brought new challenges included major moves.  Divorce added to the numbers.  Some moves were temporary while looking for a place to live. Looking at the number of moves, you might say all were temporary.  Moving from a temporary situation to a longer term place was exciting.  The dream was always the same; I wanted to live in a place long enough to have the Christmas tree up a second year.  It didn’t happen very often.

Moving to a new city was the most frustrating.  Finding the grocery store, new doctors, registering kids in school, feeling isolated were all part of the move. Up until the past few years, calling family and friends long distance was expensive so calls were on Sunday afternoon and kept to ten minutes.  Letters were the best way of keeping in touch before email.  I made the decision to make acquaintances and not friends. It was too difficult to keep starting over.

There were some moves that were devastating.  I moved from South Carolina to Baltimore, Md. after a divorce where my husband had physical custody of my children.  I was heading towards my bottom with my alcoholism and addiction.  I left to escape the pain of living and with the smallest glimmer of hope that I could change things.  It would be four months before I found my way to recovery.

Leaving Baltimore after three years in recovery was overwhelming.  I was leaving the people who had become more than friends.  They had helped me get and stay sober.  They had cried with me, laughed with me, watch me grow, and supported me in so many ways.   I remember standing at the doorway as I left my therapist office for the last time. The tears were burning my face as I struggled to catch my breath.  We hugged one last time and I walked away.  My daughter had come back to live with me and I was moving to provide a better life for her.

This move was different.  I was ready to leave a difficult marriage.   I moved into a home with my daughter and son-in-law.  We have lived together before and are comfortable together leading our own lives in the same space.   I don’t have a three bedroom house with all my stuff.  I have given up and let go of a lot.   This is home now and I am at peace and comfortable.  I haven’t been able to say that for a while.

I have lived in many houses and apartments over the years.  Some of them were home while others where just places to eat and sleep.  I grew up in a house with my grandparents.  It was never home.  I spend a great deal of time at my friend Carol’s house.  That was home and that was family.

I spend a good deal of time with my friend and her family.  Her home is a place I call home as well.   Her family is my other family.  When I leave her house at night or she is driving home from another destination, we have always text each other.   A couple of weeks ago I texted her and said, “I am home…no I am at my house.  I just left home.”   Perhaps a cliche but we both agreed that “home is where the heart is.”

I feel blessed and grateful to have a place to live that I can call home.  I have adult children and grandchildren that I call family.  I also have my second home and family.   I have a circle of other friends and a church family who make up a larger community in my life.   I hope I don’t have to move too many more times in my lifetime, however I am sure I will move again.   I just hope it isn’t too soon.

So Glad To Be Home

 

Vacations are a strange creature.  I was so excited about an adventure aboard the train going to New York and Vermont.  I counted the weeks and then days until time to leave.  I have always loved traveling by train and I was excited to visit my brother and friend, Donna.  I must have packed and repacked 4 or 5 times.   I shared some of my adventures along the way in my blog.

I arrived at the train station early only to find out the train was delayed almost an hour.  I am not necessarily patient in these situations.  I was anxious to get on board and begin my journey.    I met a couple of folks traveling from Germany and passed the time talking with them.   I was very excited to see Washington, DC, Baltimore, Md. , and New York City, even though I wasn’t stopping in any of them for long.

My first stop to visit my brother in Pooghkeepsie, NY was so much fun.  We visited the Duchess County Fair, ate take out Thai food at the drive in movie, and walked almost 4 miles across the scenic Hudson River.  Then it was off to Vermont.  I hadn’t spent time with Donna in over 3 years so it was great to reconnect and visit as well as do some shopping in scenic Vermont.

Towards the end of the week, I started to think more about home.  I had loved the trip but I was ready to come home.    It reminded me of Thanksgiving.  You know, you plan a meal and spend hours cooking and preparing the feast, put all the food out, dig in, and sometime just after you take that second serving of dressing and sweet potato casserole, you are just ready to stop eating and retreat to the couch to relax.

When people ask about my trip, I am excited to fill them in on the details but always end with, “But I am really glad to be home. “   Home is not so much a specific place, like my house, but it is here in my community of family, friends, and familiar places.  It’s where I always go to the same hairdresser, doctor, grocery stores, restaurants, and more.  It is familiar and comfortable; it is safe.   In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy kept telling everyone, “There’s no place like home.”

I grew up here in Charleston, SC and this place has always been home for me.  I have moved away on numerous occasions.  This place holds my memories and my heart.  It has been and will always be a part of me.  But I haven’t always felt as though I had a home.  I have usually had a place to live that was my own, but so many didn’t feel like home. (Yes, there were two times in my life that I didn’t have place to live, but that is a story for another time.)  Even my house growing up didn’t feel like a home.   When I moved back here 15 years ago, I knew I had come home.  My community of family and friends has been growing continually since then.

In the past couple of years, I have been coming home in another way.  I am coming home to me.  I am discovering who I am.  I am learning to accept the person I am and can be.   I spent so much of my life believing I wasn’t OK.  In a post Coloring Outside the Lines, I talked about being the child and woman I was told to be.  I knew it wasn’t me but “they” didn’t seem to like me.  I tried so hard to keep coloring inside the lines and stay in my box.

I have come home to me.  I want to spend the rest of my years here in this body learning and discovering all the amazing things that are me.  I have opened my heart, mind, and soul to God and said, “OK, I get it.  I am the one who turned away from You.  I am the one who wasn’t able to accept the person you made me to be. So here I am. I am ready.”

I am building my community for this purpose. I am opening my mind to learn and see things I have closed my eyes to before.  Wonderful teachers and new friends have come into my life.   I have kept family and old friends who love me as I am and are excited to see the new things happening in my life.  Some of them are a bit confused and I bet just a little worried at times, but they are loving me just the same.  I recently  left my job after twelve years and have no real idea what is coming next.  I am sharing my secrets, my dreams, my ideas, and life with some of these people.  Excitement, awe, and still at times, just a bit of fear fill my days.

In the The Wiz (1978), Glinda the Good Witch and Dorothy have this conversation:

Glinda the Good:   Well, Dorothy, you were wise and good enough to help your friends to come here and find what was inside them all the time. That’s true for you, also.

Dorothy:   Home? Inside of me? I don’t understand.

Glinda the Good:   Home is a place we all must find, child. It’s not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we’re always home, anywhere.

Maybe I have been on a rather long and odd vacation most of my life.  All I know is that it was an adventure; sometimes great and many times very painful.   But I have found my way home and I am so very glad to be here.

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