Happy 2018!

Happy 2018 y’all!

I’m thrilled to be starting a new year right here – I mean that in both my physical location and emotional state.

2017 was a wild ride. Around this time last year Russ and I were doubling down on our plan to buy our first home. (I shared details of what we were doing to save money here). I can’t say enough good things about that. Saving for a house further solidified our roles as teammates working toward a common goal and reminded me of the importance of recognizing want versus need – something on which we can probably all use a regular refresher.

Here we are starting 2018 and we’ve been in our house for a few months. We’ve made a few minor improvements. I painted the laundry room and guest room. We (with a lot of help from my parents and brother) put down new flooring in one guest room (okay… they mostly did it). And we added a fire pit and lights to the backyard. Unsurprisingly, the backyard is our favorite part of the house. And I swear it’s not just because we can let the dogs outside on their own and don’t have to endure any more late night walks in the cold while we wait forever for them to take care of their business.

So far the house has given us a collection of small projects, but in 2018 we’re going to do more. We’ll start out garden and compost area. It was too late to plant a garden when we moved in late last summer. We could’ve started composting, but I was distracted by other things. So all of that will come early next month.

Our master bedroom needs a reboot. It’ll be getting new floor that matches the floors in the main room and guest room. That part should be relatively easy because we’ve already somewhat learned how to install that flooring and will likely again have help from my family (yeah, we’re lucky).

The master bathroom will probably be our biggest project this year. Right now we have what feels to me like an old hotel style bathroom. The sinks are open to the bedroom, visible from the bed. On the right side of the sink area is a shower room. On the left is our closet.

The set-up a little strange, but we’re thinking a sliding door would make a world of difference. It’ll be nice to feel like our bedroom and bathroom are two separate areas.

We’re also planning to replace the flooring in the bathroom and closet area. We’re looking at tile for the sink and shower room and probably the same floor we’ll be putting in the bedroom for the closet.

We’ll take our time on improvements here, because there’s no sense in screwing up the financial situation we’ve carefully built. Eventually we’ll turn the standard tub/shower combo into a tiled shower-only. I love a flippin’ bubble bath, but not as much as I want my bathroom to feel like a sophisticated space.

All of these changes come at a cost. One we’ll have to balance with our 2018 financial goals. This year we’re putting a bigger focus on paying off Russ’s student loans. The nice thing is we are armed with the knowledge that we can handle budgeting and planning to accomplish big financial goals. We saved enough for a house in just about a year and we did it without sacrificing much. Those of you who think it’s not possible, take heart in knowing that neither of us makes an impressively large salary.

It’s totally possible.

That’s the attitude I’ve adopted for 2018. For all things I hope to accomplish — it’s totally possible. 

 

 

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What I don’t have

Perhaps I’ve written these words before – a long time ago, someone at my first job told me I don’t have the stomach for news.

It was in response to jokes she was making about a public figure who’d hanged himself. I didn’t find the jokes funny.

I was told I would either harden my heart and brain in this job or I’d get out.

A lot of people cope with hardening. I completely understand that. It’s easier for most of us to separate ourselves from the darkness – to make it not feel real.

That’s not me. When that comment was made several years ago, I didn’t take it lightly. I was upset for a bit, but mostly at the prospect that I wasn’t cut out for the one thing I’d studied to do. It was a straight shot to my ego to think I might be made for something else and I’d just wasted four years of my life making this something happen.

I’ve thought about it again and again over the years, as I left the newsroom on the day the Sandy Hook shooting occurred so I could take a few moments to myself in a bathroom. I thought about it on the day a man walked into a church in Charleston, a city I love so dearly, and killed 9 people during a bible study. I thought about it the day I walked the streets of Greenville’s Nicholtown neighborhood asking people what they knew about teenager accused of gunning down a Greenville police officer before turning the gun on himself.

And I thought about it again this morning as I stood with neighbors of a home on Greenville’s westside and watched forensics teams pull a body out on a gurney and load it into a medical examiner’s van.

I don’t often report on breaking news. It’s not my “beat”. I am typically only drawn in if someone is on vacation, busy or the story is big enough that we need several people working on it.

Every experience I’ve had with violent death has been on the job. It’s foreign to my personal life and yet it’s something I take personally.

I realized something on a dead end street, in Greenville County, lined with old mill houses and a small mobile home park – I don’t have the stomach for news. I don’t even want the stomach for news, if it means I ever leave a scene like that and don’t think about what was lost.

The peace rally that was

Tonight I went to a Black Lives Matter peace rally in Greenville. Less than 24 hours after a peaceful BLM rally was interrupted by a shooting that left five cops dead, I went to my first BLM rally.

Peace they promised and peace they delivered.

I have many words in my mind that I want to share. I have moments of interviews in which I was glad my sunglasses were shielding my teary eyes and moments in which the family I thought was holding up the white power sign actually turned out to be raising their fists in solidarity.

Tonight, I am proud of my city. And I want to share why with y’all when I’m ready, but right now I’m just ready for wine.

So, I’ll share the story I wrote for work, along with a special shoutout to my editor Dave (who I now know reads these posts) for tidying up my words on these heavy and important stories. It can’t be easy.

Here you go

 

a sort of love letter to the upstate

One day last year I was pushing a cart down the grocery aisle at my local target store when I turned the corner and ran into my older sister. I was surprised to see her on my side of town on a random weeknight, but loved the little moment of running into her at one of my regular stops. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes, then continued our separate shopping.

I spent my Senior year of college telling everyone that I was applying for jobs in 49 states — every one but South Carolina. I wasn’t bluffing. I’d moved here unwillingly as an almost 15 year old, and I wanted to see what else was out there. I took a job in Mississippi that taught me a lot about myself very quickly. Most important was the fact that I was not ready to be one of the only people in my entire family who didn’t live within a 4 hour radius. I work for a great company and a great boss who helped me find a way to do the job I love closer to the people I love.

Twenty two months ago I spent a Saturday evening walking through downtown Greenville by myself with a giant smile plastered on my face. My parents helped me move in to my new apartment that morning and I’d done some of the standard first day unpacking, but I couldn’t wait to get downtown. It was that dreamy hour in South Carolina where the sky is a ridiculous combination of pink and orange. The kind of sky I don’t remember seeing as often in any other corner of my world. I tried to take a picture with my blackberry. You know the picture tourists always take of the Reedy River running through downtown. The camera blurred what I saw and after several takes I gave up trying to freeze it. I was too excited to care that no one on the internet would get to see what I was feeling. You can’t capture, especially on a grainy blackberry camera, the way it feels to be home.

That first fall I went to a couple of football games at my high school, the rural south’s place to be on a Friday night. I took each of my parents out for lunch when their birthdays rolled around. I spent some weekends at home on the farm just because I could. I still often pick up fresh produce and eggs from my mom and dad because they’re just 35 minutes up the road and they care enough to let me live off their land a little bit (or a lot). I spent some summer days by my sister’s backyard pool. I tried out restaurants downtown that I never knew existed. I tailgated at Clemson games. I drove (probably too often) by my grandparents’ old farm, and the house my dad grew up in on the old mill village in Liberty. I spent the first year just getting reacquainted with my home — The home I was reluctant to claim at first, and excited to rediscover the second time around. I was hooked on all of it, the magic of just being home.

Moving back to where you’re from isn’t all easy. I admit it. It’s particularly tough when you’re still not far enough removed from high school to understand that people change in those key years from 18-24. Moving home makes you face that fact, quickly. You don’t return to things as you remember them. If you’re lucky, they’re better. Some people moved away in those gap years. Some people still live with their parents. Some people are still around, but you just don’t really want to hang out with them. All of that is okay and good. The fact is, it’s part of growing up. Most people learn those things when they come home for the holidays, others of us get to learn them year round.

Some old friends remain, and new people fill the other gaps. In my nearly two years back in Greenville I’ve met incredible new people. Many of them are transplants. That’s the nature of journalism. I work with people who came here from all over the country because they followed a job. They’re doing what I always thought I’d be doing. Now I get the chance to show them what I love about this place. I get to help them enjoy my space for however long they stay.

When it comes down to it, I could’ve decided today that I wanted to change my course. I could’ve said I was going to walk away from a job I like, and people I love. I had the chance, like any other journalist to try out another new city. While I admire and encourage people around me to do that if it’s what they want, I’m just not ready to give up the chance to be able to casually bump into my sister when I run up the street to pick up a loaf of bread.

Greenville is my city. The upstate of South Carolina is my home I never thought I’d love, and I am so happy to spend at least another few years here.

farm food