Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Dad Was Magic!

I have a ton of old VHS and camcorder tapes to covert to DVD so I borrowed a DVD recorder from my good friend Samantha to finally conquer the task! The first thing I coverted was this awesome video of my Father circa 1994(ish) just before he retired from the U.S. Navy.

At the time, Dad was an inspector for the prestigious Ney Award, which he had won himself several times. He was also traveling around the world to do lectures at various Naval duty station mess halls. Who knew that Naval culinary traning was so involved?!?!

Sadly, I didn't watch this tape until a year or so ago after he had long passed away. It was a hard lesson to learn that my parent's were real people and actually quite cool. I only wish I had realized all of this while they were alive.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

God's Acre Healing Springs

Robin came home for a few days this past week and planned to leave again on Wednesday. I decided to take half a day off on Tuesday so we could spend some time together. With so much recent stress over home repairs for the house insurance policy, my niece moving in and other drama in our lives I just wanted to get away, if only for a couple of hours.

There are a couple of road trips that I have really wanted to take for a while and one of them was to God's Acre Healing Springs in Blackville, SC which I learned about years ago.

From the Historical Marker:

By tradition, Healing Springs got its name during the Revolutionary War. In 1781 after a bloody battle at nearby Windy Hill Creek, four wounded Tories sent inland from Charleston by General Banastre (the Butcher) Tarleton were left in the care of two comrades who had orders to bury them when they died. Luckily, Native Americans found them and took them to their secret, sacred healing springs. Six months later the Charleston garrison was astonished by the reappearance of the six men. All were strong and healthy.

Ownership of the springs passed from the native “Indian” tribes who revered them to Nathaniel Walker, who bought them with corn. The site passed through several hands until it was acquired by L. P. Boyleston. On July 21, 1944 he deeded the land and springs to GOD. The waters, by analysis are exceptionally pure and contain healthful minerals. People today, as in the past, believe they truly are Healing Springs.

It was already mid-afternoon and we knew it was roughly a two hour drive so we headed out, grabbing some happy hour drinks from Sonic for the trip. The ride up Highway 78 is pretty uneventful and littered with a lot of farms. I always wonder loudly when traveling through places like this why on Earth would someone choose to live this far from civilization? As I drove, wanting to get to our destination as quick as possible, I made a mental note of places I wanted to stop and photograph on the way back.

When we arrived at the springs we pulled into the circular drive and assessed the situation. There were several cars there and people milling about. Others were carrying bottles to and from the springs after filling up. I decided to check us in on Facebook. We were so far in the country there wasn't even 4G reception!

After several cars came and went we decided to get out to get a closer look. As soon as I got out of the car I grabbed the bug spray and began spraying my entire body. I'm ALWAYS the one that gets a million bug bites whenever I'm outside and I'm allergic. The swelling and itching is brutal. One of the ladies that was getting into her car saw what I was doing, laughed and said "That won't help!" We South Carolinians always joke that the mosquito is the state bird and I didn't want to take any chances - especially while hanging around a source of water!

When we approached the springs we noticed that out of the three spring spigot's only one was producing any water. I walked around and took a couple of photos.

I went over to the working spring and started talking to the woman that was filling her bottles. I asked a couple of questions about the springs and she came to life telling me about the fact that she had been coming to the springs for years. She lived in Bamberg with her husband, who she claimed was Clarence "Choo-Choo" Coleman who used to play for the negro leagues, the Mets and Phillies. I asked how he got the name "Choo-Choo" and she smiled and said "Because he was as fast as a train!" She said he wasn't much into the springs, or collecting the water so he chose to stay home today after telling her that she already had enough water. She told me that you can never have enough!

I asked her what she used the water for and she said "Everything!" She said she drinks it, cooks with it and even bathes in it. She told me that sometimes she sits in her bathtub and pours it over her head. We chatted for a long time and I learned a lot about her life. She told me that she loves everybody and that it didn't matter who you are or what you do... she can't help it if you are going to hell! Ha! This lady is awesome! I really wish I had gotten her name! She started accumulating a lot of filled bottles and we helped carry them to her car. She thanked us and said "God sent ya'll here to help me!"

I really thought the water was going to smell and taste like the sulfur water from the spring at the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine so I was hesitant to taste it. The lady told me that it tasted better than her tap water so Robin and I filled our cup and each had a drink. It was actually quite good! The day was incredibly hot and the cold water was really clean tasting and refreshing. I started wishing I had some empty containers to fill up for us!

It was getting late so Robin and I decided to head out so we said our goodbyes. In the meantime, a few more people had gathered with loads of bottles to fill!

We definitely need to come back during the Fall or Winter since we found that there is a cache in the woods that leads you to another spring. I was wearing sandals so there was no way I was going to trudge through high weeds. There's no telling what critters were hiding out there!

On the way to the car Robin decided to douse her head in the "Jesus Water" (as we took to calling it) because it was so hot outside. After doing so, she said "May the Gamecocks have a winning season!" I'm surprised we didn't hear thunder roll.

On the way home we stopped to take a couple of odd rural "roadside attraction" photos...

Finally, after a stop at the grocery store and take-out Chinese shop we came home and relaxed for bit before hitting the sack. Robin was leaving the next morning and I had to work. Days like this make me miss the fun, spontaneous trips Robin and I used to take when she was working (and living!) in Charleston. I don't go nearly as much when she's not here, but I should... just to get out of the house and put my camera to use.

Perhaps when the weather cools down and it's not 100+ degrees outside!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Burlesque Bomb

Thursday evening I came home from work and I wasn't feeling too great. I was really tired and had a bad case of heartburn. Ugh. As soon as I got home I took a couple on antacid tablets and decided to take a nap. About 45 minutes later I heard the dogs start barking. I assumed it was my niece coming home (yeah, another of my nieces moved in!) and all of the sudden I felt someone crawl into bed behind me! I quickly turned around and was surprised to see Robin! I hugged her and said "what are you doing here?!?!" I was totally shocked.

Robin reminded me that she talked about coming back for the surprise party for her step-brother Jody on his return from Afghanistan. I totally forgot about it and she didn't remind me on purpose because she wanted to surprise me. I joked that it was a good thing that I didn't have my girlfriend over when she came home! Heheh! Robin wanted some nacho's because she said there aren't any decent ones in South Florida so we decided to go to the Kickin' Chicken in Summerville for dinner. Robin got her nacho's and I had the chicken fingers, which are always excellent - yum!

I had to work on Friday for 5 hours or so while Robin was home doing some things around the house. I remembered that Loretta Lynn tickets for her November concert in Charleston went on sale at 10am so I called Robin to remind her. Ring, ring, ring, ring... no answer. At 9:55 I went online and started the ticket buying process. I had the PERFECT tickets - row B, seats 15 and 16! That's was 5th row center!!! I put in all of my credit card information and then Ticketmaster brought me to the "verify your card" section. I put in my date of birth, last four of my social, credit card security code and it said my info was incorrect. I tried again and it STILL didn't take it. Ugh. I kept refreshing the screen before it timed out while trying to call Robin. I think I called her about 20 times and she never answered the phone. I finally lost the tickets and was sooooo mad! Not because she didn't answer her phone, but because she NEVER answers her phone - AND we lost the perfect tickets! Grrr! I called my co-worker/friend Felicia to vent and she wasn't in her office. Where was everyone when I needed them!?

I finally got Robin on the phone and she said she was outside and didn't have her phone on her. Yeah, okay... I was a bit TOO mad, but you know, I have my moments. Before I got home Robin had gone to the Ticketmaster at Publix and bought tickets. Row H center. I was happy but still gave her a hard time about the perfect Row B tickets that I lost because she never answers her dumb phone. I must say that I have a pretty awesome girlfriend who always tries to make me happy even when I don't deserve it.

I had several plans for the weekend and was really excited that Robin was going to be able to join me for at least part of it! Saturday night I had plans to go to "Summer of Love Burlesque Freakout" show. I have read about the Bizarro Burlesque shows and had seen some photos on Facebook so I was pretty excited that someone started a burlesque scene in the city. A couple of weeks ago I saw that they had an event planned at The Mill in North Charleston so I emailed a couple of friends asking if they wanted to join me for dinner and the show.

Robin and I picked up Felicia and headed out to E.V.O. where everyone else was going to meet us. My friend James and his wife Janice came as well as my friend Mark who I rarely get to see so I was super-happy that he joined us! I had never been to E.V.O. before but I heard good things about it. I knew it was an upscale pizzeria, but I was really disappointed at the small menu. I suppose I should have looked it up online before suggesting the place. Kind of limiting in choices, I thought. I'm not sure if I will be back, I really thought the pizza was mediocre and the the crust had so much flour-like substance on the bottom of it that it left a pasty texture in my mouth. I spent half the time brushing it all off of the bottom before I bit into it! I felt bad for Robin because she's not really a pizza fan and there weren't many options for her on the menu. She ended up having soup and a salad. I'm not sure what was happening with her soup but I saw her add a ton of red pepper to it. I guess it really lacked flavor.

The burlesque show was a benefit for a local school and we were asked to bring school supplies. We stopped by the car to pick up our bags of supplies and headed over to The Mill after dinner. When we walked up to the door I opened it and walked in. It seems like the entire bar turned around and looked at me. I turned around to my friends and no one was there. I walked over to the door and opened it and was like "What the hell?! Why didn't you guys follow me?" Goofballs. I'm not sure what the situation was, but we finally all made it into the door and got some drinks and found a place to sit.

The Mill was... well, a dive bar. It was so incredibly smoky. Within the first minute I was having a bit of a challenge with my allergies. I could feel the smoke in the back of my throat and it penetrated my nasal passages. So gross. I was trying to make the best of it but it was a huge reminder of why I don't go to bars... or smoke. All I could think of was going home and taking a shower.

My friend Devin was on his way to meet us and soon after he showed up we made our way to the "stage" so we could see the show since the couch we were sitting on had no view at all of the stage. The stage was actually just a small corner of the bar with a curtain. There was a rope that sectioned it off. We were in the front so basically anyone in back of us, or people sitting at the tables had no view unless they were tall. It was a horrible venue and setup for this kind of show.

We had to wait a good deal of time before the show started which was pretty miserable as more and more people showed up. It was standing room only and the air conditioner wasn't exactly making things ice cold. Outside it has been in the 100's all week and when you get that many people standing on top of each other it's a sticky situation. By the time the show started we were all a bunch of sweaty asses.

When the show started I was kind of surprised - it just wasn't what I expected. I mean, I've never seen an actual burlesque production in person but I have seen plenty of videos - especially older ones and also modern acts like Dita Von Teese, whom I love, but this was like super-fast Mickey Mouse burlesque! I didn't think it was seductive in any way, shape or form. There was no tease, and personally I didn't find it to be the least bit sexy. The music was really the opposite of what I think burlesque is all about. Yeah, Mickey Mouse is how I would describe it. I was bummed.

I brought my camera and tried to take photos but the girls were dancing and jumping around so fast that I could barely keep up. There was no spotlight so the stage area was really dark which meant I had to use a flash which slows down the shutter speed. I never use a flash at concerts or performances. I pretty much lost interest in taking any photos at all, actually. These are the best of the set and they aren't even that good.


During intermission the bar got so hot I practically had a meltdown. Well, I guess I actually did. I just don't do well in the heat! I can't stand it. I get lightheaded, clammy and drenched with sweat. I don't know what it's all about but it started happening after my thyroidectomy. I just assume it's my medication, but I'm not 100% sure. I was trying to stand still and not have anyone touch me which is practically impossible in a situation like that. I knew my friends weren't feeling the show either so I finally asked if everyone wanted to leave - they all immediately said yes!

After witnessing the first half of the show no one was interested in seeing the second half, or sticking around to see if we won a raffle. It was that bad. Maybe in another venue it would be better... We all decided to walk over to The Chart to cool off and have a drink.

The Chart was pretty dead which was fine with me. It was nice to be in a smoke free environment with air conditioning! It was also nice to be able to have a conversation with my friends! At one point I took my hair out of its ponytail and all I think an actual puff of smoke came out of it. My hair smelled sooooooo bad! Of course I made everyone smell it! I'm pretty sure everyone gagged at the stench.

After a drink we decided to head out because Robin had to get up bright and early to head back to Florida. I was glad to see my friends but was kind of bummed that the plans turned out to be lame.

We did get the opportunity to see this awesome crocheted phone booth, though! That was pretty cool!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

South Beach - First Visit

Before my trip I did a lot of research on Miami and the surrounding area and was really saddened that most historical things have been demolished and paved over for parking lots and shopping malls - have I mentioned this already? After visiting twice I decided that South Florida is really pretty, but has no depth or soul. I think it's perfect for a person from the Midwest who has no beach, but if you come from a place close to the ocean it's really no big deal. I do, however, love the bluish-green ocean water!

After my brief excursion to the Miami City Cemetery I decided to head out to South Beach.

When I think of South Beach I think of neon, art deco and hot bodies. None of that particularly thrills me, but I decided to go anyway. The drive out to the beach across Biscayne Bay was gorgeous! It was hard to keep my eyes on the road because all I wanted to do was look out at the skyline!

I had no idea where I was going and no itinerary but I knew that I wanted to see at least one thing... the Versace mansion. I looked up the mansion on my phone and found it pretty easily. I parked within a block or two and walked toward Ocean Drive.

I'm no fashionista by any means, and I have no special connection to Gianni Versace, but I have a great fascination of true crime stories. I remember seeing the mansion on television with the police tape after Versace was murdered by Andrew Cunanan. I have a morbid curiosity, I suppose, and was really intrigued by the story.

When I walked down 11th street and was about to round the corner I knew that I was in the right place because the fence adorned the famous Versace Medusa logo.

When I rounded the corner there were people standing in front of the infamous mansion milling about. I decided to walk across the street so I could get a shot of the entire mansion and there was this older gentleman sitting in a lawn chair under under the palm trees. He said hello to me and asked me where I was from. He then asked me if I knew about the mansion and the person who used to live there. We talked for a while and he told me that he never knew Versace personally, but had met him on several occasions. He said the South Beach neighborhood was almost like a small town for long-time residents.

I stood there talking to the man for a good amount of time while waiting for the perfect opportunity to get a photo of the mansion without people in front of it. I was starting to think that I would have to come in the wee hours of the morning for that to happen! Finally, after waiting it out, I got my chance. I had to be quick because there was a constant stream of people on the sidewalk!

After getting my picture I headed back to the car to take a drive up and down Ocean Avenue and the other areas of South Beach. I knew that I wanted to bring Robin back for a Duck Tour so I didn't hang out too long. I figured we would have a chance to walk around when we came back later in the week.

Before I left South Beach I did make an effort to drive up Washington Street to check out DASH, the Kardashian store. Yes, I watch it! They annoy me so much, but I really love Khloe! :) I didn't go in because I'm sure nothing would fit me and besides, Khloe was nowhere to be found!

When I left South Beach it was around 4:30pm. I was hot so I grabbed a beverage for the road and decided that I was going to go to head to the beach... Haulover nude beach, that is!

More to come of that bizarre story!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Miami City Cemetery

I had a mental list of things I wanted to do while on vacation in Florida. I sent my friend Beth of Grave Addiction a Facebook message asking her if she was familiar with any cemeteries in the Miami area. She said that she heard from a friend that the Miami City Cemetery was pretty cool. If you are going to listen to anyone's friends regarding cemeteries, friends of Beth would be the first place I would start! She's all knowing so I'm sure her friends are reliable sources!

The night before I started off on my adventure I was at the apartment talking to Robin's roommate, Michael, while she was at work. We were discussing things I wanted to do while in Florida. I mentioned the cemetery and that I also wanted to see South Beach and Versace's mansion where he was murdered - yes, morbid... I know! - I'm sure that is not something that's on everyone's "must see" list when visiting South Beach!

Micheal started talking non-stop about that we could go the next night after Robin got off work and he could show me all the places. I said that Robin would probably be too tired to go after a long 12-hour shift and his response was "she can sleep in the back of the car!" Well, I never gave Michael an answer, but he just went with making these plans. He obviously didn't know me at all. I'm an independent person and would MUCH prefer to discover places on my own and not from the passenger side of a car. I appreciate the offer, but being someone's tour prisoner is not my idea of much fun. I want to stop when I want to stop, If I have to drive around a block 10 times to get the perfect picture I'm going to do it. Yeah, that didn't sound like much fun to me. Besides, I knew that Robin wouldn't want to do it.

The next morning I got up, charged my camera batteries and hit the road. I hopped on 95 South and headed toward Miami City Cemetery. I was surprised to find the cemetery was located right in the heart of Miami, not too far from the Miami Herald. The cemetery itself wasn't that big and that surprised me a bit. I parked in the middle of the cemetery because I saw a restroom. I had to go! I got out of the car and saw the grounds keeper who was kind enough to unlock the restroom for my use. When I came out he and I started chatting (I wish I had gotten his name!) and we talked for about an hour! He was a wealth of knowledge about the cemetery. He told me that he was the only person that cared for the cemetery, including the burials. Wow. He gave me pointers on what the sections of the cemetery were and also info on the notable people buried there.

I started walking around and took some photos. I spent so much time talking to the caretaker that I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked there, but the conversation was well worth it!

I love the "old" and "new" views from the Miami City Cemetery!

The photo above is one of my all time favorite graves. It reads:

The body of Carrie Barrett Miller
was moulded in this solid block of
concrete December 4th, 1926.
After the body has gone to dust, her
sleeping form will remain.

I Googled the name "Carrie Barrett Miller" and found an excerpt that her husband wrote after her death that wound up in American Mercury Magazine in 1927 - this man loved his wife!! - so beautiful!:

Even though it's located in the middle of the city of Miami, the cemetery is a lovely and relaxing place to visit, almost like a park.

Across the street from the cemetery is a huge mural honoring Miami urban artist Purvis Young. Sadly, it looks like the the person who created this masterpiece spelled Mr. Young's name wrong. I love stumbling across things like this. How else would I have ever learned of this talented artist?

As I drove around Miami, I found several other pieces of street art, which I always love to look at!

After wandering aimlessly around Miami I decided to head out to Miami Beach and more specifically, South Beach. I had a couple of places I really wanted to check out, but that tale has to wait for another blog post!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SoFlo Vacay Part One - Getting There!

So, I don't think I ever mentioned that Robin has been living in Florida since January... or have I? She took a travel nursing position in Delray Beach because sadly, there aren't many well paying RN jobs in Charleston. At the hospital she was working at here in Charleston she kept getting called off work and because she was PRN if she didn't work she didn't get paid. It was getting harder and harder for us to make ends meet so she started looking into travel nursing. Her old boss was working at Delray so she decided to go there since she would know someone. Six months later she's still there.

We are in a much better position financially than we were, but we really want to be on top of things when she comes home. It's been so hard on both of us. Robin has never lived away from home or her parent's so she's been pretty lonely. She comes home from time to time and I've gone to see her twice. I miss her terribly. I think about my Mom and her Navy wife days and how she watched us bratty kids, took care of the home and all of the bills for six, nine or even twelve months at a time while my Father was out to sea. How did she do it? I've been watching the house and taking care of the dogs and it has definitely taken a toll. I have a whole new respect for my Mother and every military wife! I really can't wait for this chapter in our life to be over! I miss her so much.

I haven't taken a true vacation since going to London in 2008 (and even that wasn't the greatest!) Most of my trips have been long weekends and the horrible thing is that when I get home I always need a couple of days to recover! I wanted to take a vacation where all I did was relax and not think of work, the house or the dogs! I wanted to sleep, lay on the beach, get some sun and hang out with my girlfriend! It was time to get away!!

I left for Florida on May 27th after work and decided to stop in Kingsland, Georgia to see Jen (my best friend from 6th grade) and her boyfriend Chris. The drive to Delray is about 9 hours so I thought it might be nice to divide the trip up. On the way to Kingsland I passed a sign on the highway that read "Smallest church in America next right." The sign was partially tucked into the woods and I did a double take when I saw it. How could I not stop at the smallest church in America??

When I turned off the exit in South Newport, Georgia I told myself that I would drive two miles and if I didn't pass it I would turn around. Well, I lucked out because about a mile and a half up the road I came upon this fabulous roadside attraction!!

I noticed a sign on the door that said "Please Close Door When Leaving" - What?! I can go inside, too?? Yes!! I turned the knob and opened the door and the lights automatically turned on!

The inside of the church was the cutest thing ever although it smelled a little musty! There were little knick knacks everywhere! I was trying to take pictures quickly because I parked away from the church, it was getting dark and I was in unfamiliar territory. I was a little bummed that my photos turned out a bit blurry. I love finding places like this! I totally forgot to check to see if there was a cache there... of course there was! I guess I'll just have to go back!!

Jen's house wasn't too far a drive from the church. Chris cooked us dinner and we spent the evening chatting and catching up which was fun. I'm really glad Jen decided to share with me that she has a ferret that roams the house freely because if it had appeared out of nowhere without my knowledge I would have definitely screamed... oh wait - I DID scream when I saw it! I was kind of terrified of it, actually - and I think allergic! I don't think I've ever been around ferrets!

The next morning I left bright and early. I was really excited to see Robin and I had about a 5-hour drive ahead of me. I used to take so many road trips and the drive would never bother me but now I get so restless. Is this what happens when you get old?

After arriving in Delray, Robin and I went and had dinner at Chipotle. We don't have one in Charleston which is totally ridiculous! After Chipotle we went next door and had handmade ice cream at Cream. I had mango, which is always my number one choice. Tasty! After we returned home Robin's roommate wanted to go to Wal Mart so we headed there to pick up some things for the week.

The first couple of days I was in Florida Robin had to work. Day one I hung out by the pool which thankfully was child (and grown-up) free!

A pretty good start to a well-deserved vacation, I think!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Post-Vacation Weekend

A weekend of total relaxation... just what I needed! Of course it comes after 10 days of vacation in South Florida visiting Robin. - did I ever mention that she took a travel nursing job in Delray Beach in January? Hmmm... Anyway, laying on the beach is very hard work! I definitely need to update my blog on vacation adventures - hopefully something I can do this week!

When I returned from Florida I remembered that Charleston Magazine contacted me last month about another photo from my Flickr page that they wanted to potentially use for their June issue. I wasn't sure if they decided to use it, or not, so on Wednesday (when I returned to work from vacation) I went to Barnes and Noble to check out the current issue.

Sure enough, there on page 64 was my photo of the Unitarian Church graveyard! Yay! I know that I'm a total dork about it, but I love it. I wish my Mom was alive to check it out. She always told me to do something with all my pictures. She would have gotten a kick out of it. The photo is also featured on a page of their website called Shady Adventures!

So much to write about, but I have to go to bed. Back to reality tomorrow!

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Back in October 2009 Robin and I visited the fantastic Sheepman murals on Folly Road after reading about them in Charleston Daily Photo. I was simply amazed at the incredible artistry of Douglas "Sheepman" Panzone and took a ton of photos which I eventually put on my Flickr page.

About three weeks ago I was at work and received an email from Flickr stating that Charleston Magazine added me as a contact on Flickr. An hour after I received that email I received another email:

Hi Pamela,

I am messaging you on behalf of Charleston Magazine, based out of Charleston, South Carolina. We are interested in one of your images, taken in Charleston, on James Island, of the graffiti art on the backside of a building off Folly Road. The specific image is at this link:

We are hopeful to be granted permission by you to use this image as our "Last Page" for the May 2011 issue. Along with a high resolution (at least 5x7 inches at 300 dpi) image, we will need a photo credit and address, to which we will send a complimentary issue. Also, we would like any and all caption information regarding the artist and the mural to accompany the image. As we are on a tight deadline, an immediate response would be greatly appreciated. You can reach me at @charlestonmag. com or (843)xxx-xxxx

I look forward to hearing from you!

Design Intern

I was so excited! I love Charleston Magazine and was honored that they were interested in one of my photos. I responded immediately and sent the required info. Soon after I received an email telling me the photo was already in the layout of the magazine! Wow! They told me that I would receive a complimentary issue when it was published.

Today I checked the mail and was glad to see that the issue finally came! As I opened the protective plastic I still wasn't convinced that the photo was actually in the magazine - too good to be true, you know? I flipped to the "last page" and there it was! The first thing I did was check for the photo credit to make sure they spelled my last name right! - they did!! That made me twice as happy! My photo looked awesome in magazine print!

Getting noticed on Flickr has happened to me once before. I don't recall if I ever wrote about it, but last year I was contacted by Ripley's Publishing asking for permission to use my photo of the grave of Mercy Brown that I took in Exeter, Rhode Island in 2007 for their 2012 "Believe it or Not" Annual which will be released August/September 2011. They emailed me a photo permission and release page, which I had to mail to to Ripley's in London. The photo will appear in the vampire spread of the book 2012 annual. Just a couple more months until it's released!

Super exciting!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mom's Cheese Ball

My Mom was infamous for her cheese ball. Over the years she brought it to event after event and everyone would always rave about it Without fail, people would always asked for the recipe. While growing up it was a staple at every holiday pre-dinner, Super Bowl party and New Years Eve celebration.

Just before my Mom passed away she (for some bizarre and unknown reason) made 20 cheese balls one evening. While making the cheese balls her hands were getting pretty messy so she took off her rings (including her engagement ring and wedding band) and placed them in a paper towel and put them on the kitchen counter. Several days later she called me in tears - she told me that she forgot the rings were in the paper towel and she accidentally threw them away. She turned the house upside down searching for them and then realized what she did. She was completely devastated.

Upon Mom's passing my older sister was supposed to inherit Mom's wedding bands and we all know that if Mom didn't lose them the local pawn shop would probably end up being the proud owner. Divine intervention, I think. When Mom passed away I came home and had the task of emptying the freezer full of cheese balls. Fun times. Seeing all the cheese balls was bittersweet but I found them a home... with my older sister. I told her that she should pretend they were Mardi Gras king cakes and instead of looking for a baby, she should look for the rings. She wasn't amused.

So, in honor of my Mother's birthday - which is today - I offer up her cheese ball recipe. The card is in her writing but I would go by the other directions, which is more current. She always served the cheese balls with Sociable Crackers - Yum!!

-Mom in 1970-

Kathy's Cheese Ball
6 oz. package of roka bleu cheese
(or substitute 5 oz. jar of Kraft roka bleu spread)
2 - 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1 jar of soft sharp cheddar spread
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Chopped pecans

Spread nuts on cookie sheet and bake until roasted - let cool.
Mix rest of ingredients making sure to mix bleu cheese in thoroughly.
Shape into 2 small/medium balls or 1 large ball.
Roll cheese ball over nuts and then cover with foil.
Keep cool until served.

Happy Birthday Mom!!

-Mom in 2002-

April 13, 1946 ~ February 3, 2009

Let me know if you try the recipe!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Victor the Rasslin' Bear

It's been such a lazy weekend. Again, short on cash so I stayed home and had a shred-a-thon with old mail... mostly bills! *sigh!*

Earlier this evening I went upstairs to the attic with a small camping lantern and decided to take a look-see at some of the boxes hidden in one of the little side rooms. I haven't really touched anything in the attic since Mom passed away. I haven't even looked to see what in the world is up there!

My 19-year old niece moved in with us recently after her mother (my older half-sister) kicked her out (that's a whole other blog entry!) She told me that her mother told her that I sold all of my Mother's belongings so they will get nothing from the house. When she told me this I walked over to the closet and pulled out my Mother's purse, still intact with all contents that she had in it the day she died - her checkbook, her chocolates, hair brush and antacids, etc.. Then I took her to the attic and opened the door. It's really a wonderland of Mom's belongings - still there... untouched.

My sister, ugh.

With my camping light I crawled back into the small room and saw some boxes stacked up. They were out of reach so I grabbed a long wooden decorative goose (yes, goose!) and used the beak as a hook and pulled a couple of boxes toward me. I grabbed two of them and brought them downstairs to go through. The first one was filled with air mail envelopes... 20+ years of my parents correspondence and love letters. Whoa. I can't even being myself to open one of those letters right now. Maybe later. The next box had a bunch of reel to reel tapes - I can't even imagine what is on those! I remember my parents recording us back in the seventies! I would love to hear what my voice sounded like when I was a child! I'm sure I was a total brat! I think the old reel to reel player is around here somewhere! I wonder how much it would cost to get those digitally recorded?

At the bottom of the box were a bunch of miscellaneous papers and things that my Mother saved over the years. My old Brownie and Girl Scout badges, old cards we gave our parents, things we made in elementary school - I swear that my Mother kept everything we ever gave her and every newspaper clipping that pertained to the family! One of the things that I found was this hysterical clipping from October 1976 when my Father was going to wrestle a black bear named Victor.

Let's see... In 1976 my Dad would have been 30 and I would have been 7. I remember that time clearly. My Dad was a Navy recruiter in Danville, Illinois. We lived in this tiny town called Oakwood, which wasn't too far from Danville. We lived in a mobile home park called Lake Bluff and our "house" was all the way at the back of the park. For some reason our next door neighbors didn't like us and I remember that the girls that lived in the trailers next to us were kind of mean to me. Their names were Kendra and Mishere and they were best friends. I remember that my Grandmother bought me a pair of orange coulottes with this really pretty finge belt and when I wore them to school Kendra and Mishere made fun of me and I went home crying. As always, my Mom told me to just ignore them. A couple of weeks later Kendra and Mishere had coulottes, also. Hmph! I found Kendra on Facebook last year and we are now friends... she doesn't remember the rivalry like I do. Isn't funny the things that stick with us?

Oakwood was a very small town where everyone knows everyone. The trailer park we lived in didn't even have paved roads. The elementary school went from Kindergarten to the 8th grade if I remember correctly. There was one store - a mini mart for grocery needs. I don't remember there being a a regular grocery store there. I think we had to go to Danville for that, although my Mom always went to Chanute Air Force Base for all her shopping at the commissary. We would load up two to three carts full of groceries - enough to last for a couple of months. We had this huge freezer that my parent's kept covered in fabric in the living room... classy! I'm sure my Mom put some crazy decorations on it to deflect that it was a freezer! For a long time there was this blue denim-like fabric on it that my Mom kept for years. When I was in high school I tie-dyed it and made a wrap-around skirt with that fabric. From freezer to fashion - that's how I roll!

I remember in 1978 we had that crazy blizzard that paralyzed the entire Midwest and Northeast. They had to dig us out of our house and people came around on snowmobiles to take grocery orders because there was no way a car could drive on those roads... actually, the roads were covered with several feet of snow. A pregnant neighbor went into labor and they had to take her to a Danville hospital on a snowmobile. I'm sure that wasn't fun!! Being a child in blizzard conditions was nothing but fun! The snow drifts were as tall as a house and we played Kind of the Mountain all day long! This was prime sledding weather! Of course I learned years later how much of a pain in the ass it was to deal with snow as an adult, and because of that I now loathe even the smallest of snowflakes.

I have some really strange memories of our days in Oakwood. I remember there was this rock quarry that they turned into a makeshift lake. It was called Fairmont Beach. It really wasn't a beach at all. When you drove into the quarry there was a big sign with a painting of a boy diving frog-like into the water. The actual water went pretty deep and it had a boardwalk/pier on the left side of it - was there sand? I seem to remember that there was sand - not sure how I can confirm that. One day I remember wading in the water and turning around to see a snake swimming toward me. I must have let out a scream because the next thing I know, a total stranger on the boardwalk pulled me out of the water. I was also pulled out of the water another time by a stranger when I went under and swallowed some water. I couldn't breathe... where was my Mother??

Fairmont beach was also filled with fish. I remember one time a fish bit the birthmark on my left leg. I suppose it thought it was a tasty morsel - a surprise for both of us! I also remember catching pollywogs in the small pools of water there. Fairmont Beach was kind of gross, actually, now that think about it.

In those days my Mother was quite an adventurist. There was a town near Oakwood called Catlin where we lived for a short while. On the way to Catlin there was this bridge that we always called the "Singing Bridge" because when you went over it the car would hum for a couple of seconds (I'm not sure why we didn't call it the "Humming Bridge!") The bridge went over a small river and my Mom would take us down there to swim. Of course we totally trusted our Mother but I know for sure there is no way I would ever do that as an adult because of snakes!! I remember my Mom repeating over and over that there was a drop off and for us not to go too far from the edge of the river. What was she thinking?? We were all under the age of 10! From then on I've always feared the fantastically scary "drop off" in every body of water. I know it's always lurking there waiting to suck me under!

Near the "Singing Bridge" was the yard with the apple trees. One day my Mom saw the trees and the apples all over the ground and pulled over to the house. We had no idea what she was doing. She knocked on the door and returned a couple of minutes later after talking to the owner. Apparently she made a deal with the owner that we would "clean up" his yard of all the fallen apples. We were to be the worker bees. We returned the next day with laundry baskets, bags, boxes - you name it and picked every apple that wasn't rotten. My Mom, the queen of all things DIY, took those apples and canned every last one of them making apple butter, apple jelly, cinnamon apples, applesauce (my favorite!) you name it! We even returned to the house and gave the owner some of the finished canned product. This deal lasted for several years while we lived in the area.

My Mother was also in the lilac "borrowing" business. In Illinois lilacs bloom everywhere! Whenever I see wisteria here in Charleston it always makes me think of Mom and her lilac obsession because they resemble each other so much. Mom LOVED the smell of lilacs! For some reason she wouldn't approach the people who owned the lilac bushes... she made us do the dirty work. We would go up to the house and ask the people if it was okay to pick some lilacs for our mother. What they didn't know is that we were equipped with trash bags to stuff them into! We would have lilacs in every corner of the house - I'm sure some were even decorating that freezer in the living room! She also did this with cattails. My Mother was a nut.

Ahhhh, Oakwood. So many weird, crazy times in the seventies. One of the things that I remember vividly about Oakwood is that it was a VERY Caucasian community. My parents never really talked about race and to be honest I really didn't know any black kids until elementary school in Connecticut. From 4th grade to 7th grade there was only a couple of black families that lived on base with kids my age. Those families (because of the Navy) were the same kids that I knew when I moved to Washington State. It wasn't until I moved to South Carolina that I was really exposed to the African-American community. In Oakwood I remember being at the mini mart and seeing members of the KKK there. I was only a kid so I had no idea what they were doing. They were actually in white robes. I can't even imagine seeing that in this day and age unless there were a demonstration or something (even then it's unfathomable!) To see that as a kid is a little frightening. I don't remember asking my parents about it, but I'm sure I did. I wonder how they explained it to me.

I remember back during that time we would get fliers in our mailbox advertising the KKK. My father kept one of them. I found it recently in some of my parents things. I remembered it from when I was a child and recognized it immediately when I saw it. It is blue and has a picture on the front of it of a black gentleman. In big letters it says "He may be your equal, but he's not ours - Ride with the Knights of the KKK" Inside there is an application to join. Totally appalling. I remember my Dad telling me that I must never tell anyone that we had this. He kept it for history sake but was still scared of anyone's reaction - especially a misunderstanding of why he had it. I'm glad he kept it. People forget and it's so important to remember. I don't know of anyone else that has witnesses that sort of thing as a child. Of course back then you just stare in an uncomprehending sort of way. Innocence is so precious and short lived.

I just checked the 2000 Census of Oakwood and the racial breakdown is: 99.33% White - 0.13% African American - 0.20% Native American - 0.07% Asian - and 0.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.53% of the population. Wow. Not much has changed as far as ethnic diversity since I lived there in 1978!

So, how did I get on this crazy rant about my life in Oakwood when I fully meant to write a blog about my dad rasslin' a bear? I have no idea.

So, like I said, my Dad was a recruiter. His office was one of those buildings that was underground for tornado purposes. We used to walk on the roof of the building and think that was totally cool since it was only a foot off the ground. We would go to the office when there were tornado warnings (which was often!) and play with all the recruiting paraphernalia. My Dad's office had loads of Navy stickers, key chains, pencils - you name it! For a kids that was some fun stuff! Of course we would always get in trouble for wasting the stickers, etc.

The night my Dad was going to wrestle Victor I remember that he and his buddies had a couple of beers... okay, a lot of beers. There was a pretty big crowd and the guys that were wrestling came out and were announced to the audience. I remember my Dad was wearing pants, no shirt and had a couple of Navy bumper stickers taped around his head in a crown-like fashion (nobody could say my parents weren't fun!) There was a boxing ring set up with lights all around and the first match began. Soon after it started it was stopped because Victor was acting "strange" according to his trainer. It was explained that the noise, the crowd or the lights was making Victor act unusually aggressive so the wrestling was stopped - you would have thought Victor would be used to this sort of thing. So, the night my Dad was to wrestle Victor was a flop.

Now that I think about this whole situation I can't really condone this bear rasslin' thing. I mean, the 70's were a totally different time and of course in modern day these sorts of thing don't happen because PETA would be right there to bitch-slap some animal rights sense into you (and rightly so!)

The 70's were just this crazy magical time for me and when I think back about my parents and all the kooky stuff they did. Well, I really wouldn't change it for the world. Who else can say their Dad was going to rassle' a bear??

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Super Moon

Today was supposed to be really productive but it turned out to be a day of lounging in soft pants. I think I needed it desperately since my sleep pattern has been incredibly off and I've been dragging at work. When I come home I'm just drained and the only thing I can think of is vegging out.

Today I did manage to straighten up the house a bit and do dishes. I went to make lunch and realized the heating element in the oven broke in half. I was wondering why it took an hour to preheat! I swear if it's not one thing, it's another!

Robin took a travel nursing job in Miami in January to make more money and no matter how hard she works we can't seem to catch up on things. I swear that one thing happens after the other! At this point I just want her to come home. I miss my partner in crime terribly.

Tonight I decided to escape reality and headed down to Bushy Park with my camera to take some photos of the Super Moon. It was nice and bright but didn't seem much bigger than your average moon.

Besides several drunk kids (who left eventually) it was a quiet and peaceful night. There were a couple of people fishing opposite me who built a small fire on the metal pier. I was wishing I had a bit of that warmth since I, for some strange reason, decided to wear sandals!

Silly me.

Moon-Catchin' Net

I've made me a moon-catchin' net,
And I'm goin' huntin' tonight,
I'll run along swingin' it over my head,
And grab for that big ball of light.
So tomorrow just look at the sky,
And if there's no moon you can bet
I've found what I sought and I finally caught
The moon in my moon-catchin' net.
But if the moon's still shinin' there,
Look close underneath and you'll get
A clear look at me in the sky swingin' free
With a star in my moon-catchin' net.

- Shel Silverstein

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More on Maude

I found this article while doing more research on Maude Callen. I especially love the poem at the end so I thought I'd share!

I am so fascinated with her story. I think it was the photos of Maude wading through the South Carolina swampland that moved me. I know the Lowcountry back roads and swamps all too well, but I can't even imagine what it was like back in the days when Maude was traveling to see patients on unpaved roads. I really hope that Maude's story is included in the South Carolina Black History Month curriculum in our schools!

Pineville, a historic refuge

2008-05-02 / Travel
Part 57: Nurse Maude is honored
By Warner M.Montgomery

Photo by Eugene Smith of Maude Callen in her health clinic under construction in 1953. Photo is in permanent collection at the Museum at the International Center of Photography in New York City.
Nurse Maude Callen graciously accepted the attention and the contributions that followed the photo essay in Life Magazine in 1951. She continued her work at the Pineville clinic until her retirement in 1971.

In 1981, she was named Outstanding Older South Carolinian by the S.C. Commission on Aging and was also presented the Order of the Palmetto by Governor Richard W. Riley.

Nurse Maude's celebrity status reached national headlines again in 1983 when she was featured on the television program On the Road with Charles Kuralt . She was presented the Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award in 1984 for 60 years of service to her community. Other recipients include Bob Hope, Henry Ford II, Pete Rozell, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and John Glenn.

Photo by Eugene Smith of nurse- midwife Maude Callen inoculating wailing boy in 1951. Photo is in permanent collection at the Museum at the International Center of Photography in New York City.
The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) awarded Maude Callen an honorary degree in May 1989. The MUSC College of Nursing created the Maude E. Callen Scholarship which is given to a student enrolled in the College of Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwifery, or Gerontological Nursing tracks of study.

Honored many times in Berkeley County, Nurse Maude Callen continued to volunteer as manager of the Senior Citizens Nutrition Council in Pineville. She personally delivered meals- on- wheels five days a week until her death in 1990.

Maude Callen was a missionary for healthcare in the rural backwoods of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Her life was dedicated to her patients. She gave the sanctity of life to every child she midwifed and the rewards of good health to every adult she nursed.

Pineville's Maude Callen Health Center closed over 20 years ago. Now, the nearest center is about 30 miles away. Nurse Maude and the services she provided have not been forgotten. Residents of Pineville have formed a board of directors to raise money to reopen the clinic which would serve residents of Pineville, St. Stephen, Russellville, and the surrounding community. The board has been given the deed to the center.

Photo by Eugene Smith of nurse- midwife Maude Callen helping a man into wheelchair in 1953. Photo is in permanent collection at the Museum at the International Center of Photography in New York City.
Members of the health center board are Rubystene Mazyck, president; Naomi Gadsden, secretary; Octavia Gethers, treasurer; Darlene Fludd; Dr. Charles Bounds; Jean Gethers; Keith Gourdin; Rev. Robert McCutchen; Herbert Milligan; John Rembert; Ruth Williams; and John B. Williams, attorney.

Very few of the residents have a primary doctor, according to Mrs. Mazyck. She says school surveys in the area show most children don't go to the doctor unless they are ill, and when they do, it's most often a trip to the emergency room.

The board needs about $200,000 to begin renovations and about $400,000 total. The board received $25,000 from Berkeley County Council in 2006.

The March/April 2003 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nurse-Midwives honored Maude Callen. It included a poem written by Jeanne Bryner, a nurse who writes extensively about issues in the Appalachians and the Southeast.

For Maude Callen: Nurse Midwife, Pineville, SC, 1951

I speak of a woman, blue black midwife
Of April fog, flood, swamp, and July nights
When Maude Callen's hands layered newsprint
In circles as a weaver works her loom,
Slow, to catch blood, straw, placenta, save sheets.
I sing kitchen lamplight, clean cloths, Lysol,
Cord ties, gloves, gown, and mask; she readies all
For this crowning first mother, purple cries.
I sing of sweat and gush and tear, open thighs
And triangle moons, ringlets, charcoal hair.
I sing sixteen- hour days,Maude's tires bare.
Mud country roads, no man doctor for miles.
I sing transition, collapse of mountains.
Crimson alluvium, the son untangled.
- Jeanne Bryner

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Nurse-Midwife

Sometimes you stumble upon the most amazing stories when you are simply going about your day.

On Sunday I had to headed to Pineville to replace my Swamp Fox cache (yes, again!) and after doing so, I placed another cache at the beautiful Pineville Chapel. I really like this area of Berkeley County.

On the way home I came across a building I have passed a million times before but never paid much attention to. This time I decided to stop and take a couple of photos. The lettering on the top of the building said "Maude Callen Clinic - Berkeley County Health Department." The building was old and run down with a couple of broken windows. It's in the middle of a very rural community and I started to wonder what the story and history of it was.

When I walked up to the front of the building to get a closer look I noticed that the door was cracked open. Anyone that knows me will tell you that this might as well be a handwritten invitation to go inside - I love exploring any old, abandoned property! When I pushed the door open it barely budged. I had to really push hard to get it to open. When I was finally inside the air smelled like mold and other than the interior itself falling apart, it was actually quite clean. When they closed this clinic they emptied it out entirely.

I started walking around and was a little nervous because you never know what (or who!) you might run into when entering an abandoned building. I called out "Hello!" and no one answered, but I still didn't let my guard down (remind me to invest in some mace!) I walked around taking photos and tried to be as fast as I could. My Jeep was parked on the side of the road and since there isn't anything else in the area besides the church next door I didn't want to raise suspicion about who the Jeep might belong to and where I might be!

The clinic consisted of several exam rooms, a bathroom, long hallway and a large room which I assume was the waiting room. I was trying to imagine all the bustling activity that once existed here, but at the moment the atmosphere it held nothing but eerie silence.

I finished my photo taking and headed outside making sure to close the door tightly behind me. I made a mental note to Google the clinic when I got home to find out more about it.

Later that night when I was uploading my photos of the clinic to Flickr I came across the plaque that is on the front of the building and did a Google search on the namesake of the clinic. I was overwhelmed with the search results. Maude Callen turned out to be a very real, amazing Nurse-Midwife that lived in the Pineville area!

The first thing that popped up was a Life Magazine article that appeared in the December 3, 1953 issue that you can read here.

They did a several page spread with the most amazing photos of Maude while she was on the job treating the people of the Pineville area. I immediately fell in love with this woman and her obvious passion for her what she did and also the residents of the area. The photo essay speaks volumes about her dedication and work ethic.

(There are so many more photos in the magazine - do yourself a favor and check it out!!)

After doing additional research I found out that Maude dreamed of opening up a clinic in the area but didn't think that she could ever raise the money to do so. However, after the Life Magazine article was published her dream came to fruition when $27,000 in donations were collected. Maude worked in the clinic until she retired in 1971.

I noticed on the plaque that they have Life Magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith listed as "Promoter" - how did he even find Maude for his photo essay?

She seemed like such a selfless woman and I wonder what her personal life was like. Was she married? Did she have children? Where is she buried? Does she have family in the area? I need to know more!!

I love coming across heartwarming stories like that of Maude - especially when it was totally unexpected.

I think I have a new hero!