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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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

 

I don’t see my fiance during the week, except for occasional lunches. We work different schedules. I arrive home from work an hour or so after he leaves to start his day.

Most weeks we meet for lunch on Wednesday. He usually comes downtown and we pick a spot on a bench or by the river to have a picnic.

It’s both ordinary and extraordinary.

Two weeks ago a group of adults on some sort of work-related scavenger hunt stopped us to ask if we’re together. They needed to find a couple to tell how they got together in a short recorded video clip. They hit record and I said “we were friends for a couple of years and now we’re engaged”.

I didn’t simplify that for the sake of saving space on this website. That is literally all I said. They thanked us and moved on, probably to find a couple with a better story to tell.

But we do have a better story to tell. I left out so many things.

I didn’t mention the story he tells of the first day he met me at work – how he remembers what I was wearing.

I didn’t mention the nights we went out with co-workers to our favorite pizza spot downtown and played pool.

I didn’t say one word about the night we carpooled, entirely out of convenience, and a simple conversation about concerts made us realize there was something more.

I didn’t tell them how we went on our first date to waffle house because it was the only place open when we got off work at midnight on a Wednesday, or how our second date was spent throwing a football back and forth on a local high school field.

I didn’t tell them Russ waited until the fourth date to kiss me (and I was *this* close to thinking I had misinterpreted the whole thing).

I didn’t say one word about how Russ came into my life at a time when I was struggling more than ever with friendships and heartbreak – and how he unknowingly saved me from a weird, stupid spiral of sadness that was so unlike me.

I left out the part about how he makes me laugh hard every single day, and that he laughs at all of my stupid jokes. He even laughs when I tell him (all the time) that he is “the weirdest one in this relationship” because we both know I’m deflecting.

I didn’t tell them this is the easiest thing I’ve ever done, or that his family made me feel like part of their family the minute I met them.

I didn’t tell them that planning a wedding is my worst nightmare and somehow Russ makes it fun.

Somewhere in town there are three co-workers who think they met a nice, boring couple with a terrible story to tell their future children.

Because some things are too big for conversation.

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A week or two after we started dating – both of our hairstyles are unreasonably long.

Pickens County

It’s hard when I’m on a trail not to look around and think of who’s been there before. I look up the hill beside me and imagine how the natives might’ve run criss-cross paths through the trees. This was their land long before anyone carved out trails and nailed markers to tree trunks.

I imagine how swiftly they’d move from one spot to another, occasionally someone might have turned an ankle on uneven ground. Or maybe that didn’t happen like it would today. Maybe their joints were stronger, more nimble because they weren’t used to the cushion and control of a pair of nikes.

I’m suddenly embarrassed by my reliance on and loyalty to the swoosh.

The Keowee-Toxaway State Park was not where we intended to end up on that Sunday afternoon. We were headed a little further northwest. Driving through Pickens County always feels like an exploration of home. Of course, I feel that way about basically everywhere in the Carolinas. I’m a sucker for the long leaf pine and palmetto trees.

I was 14 when we moved to Pickens County, and I only truly lived four years of my life there, but It’s as much my home on this particular Sunday as any part of North Carolina at this point. And it’s in my blood.

Devil’s Fork has been on our radar since the first time we took friends to see it. The easy trails give way to beautiful views of Lake Jocassee and a nice spot to swim and kayak. Devil’s Fork is where we thought we were going, but the sign for Keowee-Toxaway is visible from the intersection of 133 and Highway 11. Sometimes plans change.

The people who would’ve run through these trees are my actual ancestors.

With backpacks, water bottles, hats, and bagged lunches we make our way down the path. We’re not counting on catching our meals or going too long without a sip of fresh water. We’re prepared.

It’s several miles before we’ll come out on the other end. There are hills and dips, lake views and areas where you can’t even tell you’re near a water source – these are the spots that seem most authentic.

The lake we’ll pass wasn’t even there with the natives. Every lake in South Carolina is man made. Our northwestern corner of the state once had only dense forests and mazes of rivers, streams, and creeks.

Long before our family had the Sanders name, or owned a farm near town, my ancestors most likely ran through those trees, chasing down prey.

I had a hard time moving to Pickens County in 2002 because I was a teenager, and because it seemed like it had nothing to offer. There’s not even a mall where a girl can buy a new pair of nikes.

But the people who once ran through these trees are my people. Before the Sanders landed on top of a hill by Rice’s Creek, my family knew the animals, the red dirt, and the way the streams carved through the land like natural maps.

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