Mediterranean Mecca

Anyone local may know Judy. She volunteers at school and helps at a food bank…but have you seen her garden? You won’t be the same afterwards.

Judy is from Syria. Her Arabic name is Na’ifa. The English translation means, ‘blessed, beautiful, exalted’. She met an American engineer while he was working overseas and they later married. He’s well traveled and talking with him is exciting. To try and describe what they’ve created over the years, I merged definitions of an oasis: a fertile region in a desert like area; a place of refuge with cool water. This literally defines Rick and Judy’s property which has natural springs. As landowners they’ve fortified the earth by transforming it into an interlude, a respite like the holy Psalms.

People who cultivate and produce in this soil, impress me. The amount of labor, patience and endurance demands respect. Especially when South Carolinian dirt is mostly composed of red clay.

My first visit, we sipped strong herbal Syrian tea and walked along a stone path. These are flat, heavy stones she hauled from a quarry not far from the house. That’s quite the feat considering Judy stands about five feet tall. Her frame is slight, petite but the woman is no wilting flower. She’s strong, lithe and proud of her work. This path leads you by a green fence draped in grape vines. It guides you past Gardenias, Black-Eyed-Susans, Orange Day and Tiger Lilies, Zinnias, Roses, Hostas and Hydrangeas. She points out yellow squash and pulls up horseradish leaves for a salad. She has cucumbers and eggplant..peppers and melons..tomatoes, berries, plums, pears, green onion and wild garlic. Judy absent mindedly runs her hands up the rosemary and lemon thyme releasing fresh scents. The aroma is so powerful, I actually feel dizzy.

“So, you want to see my garden?” she asks. I nod…thinking…there’s more..more than all of this?

Our boys have disappeared to a pond stocked with vibrant goldfish. The kids reappear when Judy revs an atv engine to life. The kids get on one and she climbs on the other. I must have had a wary look because she smiles and says, “It’s okay. Totally safe, here. Trust me”

And stepping out of ultra cautious parent character, I did. I let my kids ride an atv without helmets in an unfamiliar place before dark. But you know what? It was okay. This is a safe place. The first visual is a panoramic span of Blue Ridge mountains. They tower over this hidden mecca like silent guardians, a strong backstop to lean against and sigh.

Since writing this, I’ve been three more times..with a Nikon camera. Judy doesn’t mind if I take photos even though she spent her entire day working here. She’ll sit on the dock with me or slip off her shoes and unclog one of the pond drains while I look for dark red plums straight off the tree. Those are sweeter than the lighter ones. The birds know that too and they’re hard to find now.

What I’ve seen has changed me..the intelligent design and resourceful engineering is inspiring. They’ve moved stubborn, rocky earth and reshaped it into a setting so majestic it takes hold of you. Dedication and love resound off lily pads with pink and white blossoms that open and close with the day, croaking bull frogs and silver minnows darting in ponds. A long legged water bird pauses and then flies off when we approach. She explained that’s how the reeds grew here (the ones that clog the drain) transplanted from birds walking in different bodies of local water. Rick built three ponds in cascading tiers sending spring water down an intricate drain pipe system to flow from the first into the second which empties into the lowest.

I’ve tried to portray the intense beauty but my photographic images are flat and dull compared to being there…hearing and feeling the atmosphere. They’re fascinating people with extensive knowledge of animal habitats and botanical science. Na’ifa’s garden is tangible, pulsing life. I imagine ancient Chaldeans and Macedonians living in Mediterranean glory like this, walking in a blessed, beautiful, exalted place. You receive what it offers, sublime happiness.

Same Train. A Different Time.

Sometimes the one who loves you best has to set you straight. You know, play chiropracter and realign your outlook with a sharp crack twist. It hurts for a split second but then you’re glad they cared enough to help you quit wallowing..in a self-made pot of jackhole stew..

A: “So…you’ve been doing that thing for a while now”

Me: “What thing?”

A: “Cut the sad shit”

Me: “I’m not a robot. Being happy and upbeat all the time isn’t natural”

A: “Whenever the house falls apart or your sisters don’t call..sometimes you mope”

Me: “YOU do it every Christmas. I carry us through the holidays while you grow a beard and listen to Frusciante. Sorry if you have to tugboat me along right now”

A: “Just quit with the Merle Haggard and longing looks at the horizon. Remember last summer? All your Spanish music and crazy surplus of taco-burrito-junko stocked in the freezer? What do you need? What do you want?”

Me: ” I need time. I want free time. Even if that just means eating french fries in my parked car or getting all dressed up to do nothing but lust after the horizon and I don’t want to be punished.for.it. Going out for a free day but coming home to glue puddles on the floor or another broken window or a mess of sugar, glitter, paint and eggshells, SUCKS. When you go out things operate normally. You come home to dinner, clean kids and everything nice. That’s not magic. That’s me”

A: “We can figure this out. They do take advantage of me being the super tired, on duty parent”

Me: ” That’s a total cop out and you’re fishing for empathy. When I leave, you get a nap, the kids get wild and I get the dumpster house makeover. Every time”

A: “Let’s try again”

Me:” You’re promising I can go out for consecutive hours and not come home to a food color stained bathtub with a box of clumped pasta clogging the drain? Or cut and burned Barbie hair stored in the freezer? You’ve really got this? Cause I need..actually need a day off”

Got a stale argument in your relationship? One that loops and doesn’t reach resolution? This is ours.

When I think of Isaac

When I think of Isaac, I smile. It’s easy for me to smile in memory. I’m not his mother who gave birth to him. I’m not the woman he married. I’m not a branch of family tree that wishes they could shade and reroot him into their soil. I was a friend. Today I want to share my memories that reveal him as I knew him.

I see Isaac in his white button down chef coat. He’s walking toward our table with bowls of ice cream. His hands make the dessert bowls look small because he has two in each palm. I took the babies to see ‘A’ at work after the lunch rush. He was still busy so Isaac brought ice cream. He sat, talked with and our youngest who was the babiest of the babies offered him a bite..from the spoon.. she’d baby-slobbered all over. He looked at me as if to ask, Ok? And then graciously shared a bite of ice cream with her.

‘A’ and I drove to a college bar and played darts with Isaac and Summer. There wasn’t anything special about that night except the memory now of time spent and that they were happy and laughing.

I can look back to see him sitting with his arm around Summer, the wind rustling their hair on an open air trolley vineyard tour at a culinary food show.

My favorite memory is dinner, at our house, in the fall. They heard the next day was our daughter’s birthday and stopped to get a present. When a friend does something thoughtful and generous for your child it leaves a deeper impression on your heart than when they give a gift to you.

I can’t claim a close friendship with Isaac. I can only share moments from being around him for a few years. It’s an unnerving, scary feeling of loss knowing that someone who was just sitting beside you sharing ice cream can be gone the next.

There is no promise of tomorrow. No second chance on earth. “Be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life.” We have hope and faith. Summer, find and keep hold of peace. Isaac, rest in peace..and I believe we will see you again.

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This Is What Motherhood Looks Like

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Day trippin’ for the holiday…in the backseat a little “light” reading for boy while the girls play tic-tac-toe
Happy Birthday America!

It’s Just An Idea

Ex Chef: “No. Ohhh no. It’s not just an idea with you. It’s a terrible idea…a really crap idea! I can’t believe you’re bringing this up.”

Me: “The fact that you react so passionately to a simple idea is proof, to me, that…you dig it.”

Ex Chef: “I deny that. I deny this. I’m denying this whole conversation. I hear your little whispers here and there. No. Flat out, NO.”

Me: “Ok. If not now, when? When can we even entertain the thought? Just name a time frame.”

Ex Chef: N.E.V.E.R.

Me: “You know it would work.”

Ex Chef: ” People in the south want butter laden, sodium soaked fried foods slathered in heavily salted sauces.
They want it fast and they want it cheap. I don’t want to cater to that.”

Me: “Pick a state. Any city. Lets go there. We’ll sell this stupid house that we hate and buy a commercial property that we can’t afford, live above our future restaurant means and let’s do this. Let’s do something new and scary, dumb and risky. You’re so money in the kitchen. I’ll run the front of the house and hand pick an amazing staff. It will be incredible. I know it.

Ex Chef: ” We’d need start up cash. A lot of it. Product has changed. Stop it. Go away.”

Me: “You wanna hear the names I have ready?”

Ex Chef: ” No. I do not.”

Me: ” Well, you sleep on that and let me know a time frame…”

Someday, we will have a restaurant. Someday.

Now hear this, this isn’t a naive dream. He used to chef. He is an excellent chef. He has a killer palette and was sous chef for Chef Andreas Sellner (name droppin’) I know because I’ve worked with ‘A’ in kitchens and I’ve served his food. I’ve worked in the front and back of the house, served on the floor and prepped on the line. I actually like the operations of a restaurant. We could do this…the tiny problem is he isn’t ready. He literally burned his chef coats after switching careers. So why am I trying to resurrect them from the ashes?

Because…we could do this! And it would be fantastic.

Stream of Driftwood Consciousness

I am the shipwrecked mariner, of infinite-resource-and-sagacity, lodged deep in the belly of the whale which makes the sea froth up with its tail.

I’ve been reading too much Kipling and Updike.

Love French translation for American cosmetics. Instead of a ‘wild berry’ lip liner. It’s ‘baie sauvage’ — gorgeous.

There are so many words to use, flung up, up, high into the atmosphere hanging like stars. Burning out but casting light to us for years and years.

I can’t sleep.

I’d rather have weird, disturbing dreams and wake up repeatedly than just lie here aimless and floating. Driftwood or drift wood. One word or two?

The other day a German band was on the radio..as I drove a German designed engine to Aldi for groceries..which is a German company.

Stream of Ultraviolet Consciousness

Summer thunderstorms are breathtaking here…and over the long dreary winter I had forgotten how beautiful. We watched heat lightning from the porch last night…fast flashing zaps of purple white ultraviolet.

My kids and I were playing around today. They were running down the hall rushing at me. They’d leap at the last moment and try to air ski…on my legs while we grasped hands. It was all fun and games until my biggest kid hurt me — seriously hurt me! I didn’t want him to feel bad so I played it off but Holy Gawd my neck is…strained. Heating pad, ice, bio freeze, ibuprofen.

Love how everybody is all in love with MLS and World Cup soccer matches now that we scored a quick goal against Ghana. Clint Dempsey played for Furman University and I used to watch him scrimmage because I had a boyfriend who played for Furman then too. Dempsey is not from SC. He just played here for a few years.

That’s all I got. How is your summer?

An After Dinner Walk

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Even though my kids have burned hard calories all day long they still have an astonishing amount of energy by dinner time. We take a few apples and a handful of oats and ‘leisurely’ stroll down the street to see the horses.

Be Careful What You Say, Son.

The forest beside our house is a graveyard for beloved soccer balls. We used to fish them out and pump them back up but we really needed a new one so I brought one home this weekend. Soccer was my favorite sport in school. I played for a private academy and then later on a co-ed rec team for a few seasons but truth be told, I couldn’t keep pace after having a baby and then babies. So, now I play in the yard with my kids. It’s still fun.

Boy said girls can't play soccer...

boy said girls can’t play soccer

So I had to show him otherwise...

challenge accepted

He couldn't even handle my footwork

he couldn’t even handle my footwork…

when he got sassy, he got shoved down

when he got sassy, he got shoved down

He was finally impressed

he was finally impressed

American Racing

Danica Patrick said, “We did some good things this weekend” Isn’t that a great attitude? Gracefully spoken right after her car engine blew, hundreds of laps into the Coca-Cola 600.

Thursday afternoon we stood by the finish line and witnessed Danica race by at 190.8 mph during the qualifying. Her track time was fifteen hundredths off the current record. That’s fast…which placed her in fourth for Sunday’s race. She inched her way up to third and held strong for several laps until something happened to her engine.

Experiencing a NASCAR event changed my opinions on racing. The skill, team work, structure of the stadium — is– thrilling…but what really got my attention is the pure patriotism. NASCAR doesn’t give a hoot. They pray. They prayed out loud and proud for safety and gave thanks to God and our military for our amazing freedom. We were surrounded by a sea of soldiers in green fatigues. We drank a coke with some and high-fived others. Two soldiers carried our tired pink-faced girls up the concrete stairs all the way to our exit. It was a beautiful act, symbolic of how our servicemen and women carry our freedom and simply hand it over to us. Don’t worry, I didn’t cry — much. GOD BLESS ‘MERICA and everyone that loves our country.

danica took a moment to snap a pic with us

danica took a moment to snap a pic with us

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