Monday, June 22, 2015


In 2000 the State of South Carolina voted on whether to keep the Confederate flag flying over the State House. At the time the American flag flew on top, then the South Carolina State flag and ending with the Confederate flag on the bottom. The majority of South Carolinian's voted to remove it from the State House, I being one of those votes.

After much controversy the State decided to place the Confederate flag on the grounds of the State House. I felt so passionately about the removal of the Confederate flag that I drove from Charleston to Columbia to watch it happen. These photos are a few that I took that day, July 1, 2000. It was one of the most tense things I have witnessed in my life. I was with a friend that was black and we couldn't believe what we were seeing. People were within inches of each other, faces turning red, veins popping out of their necks screaming at one another. The words "racist", "redneck", "N-word Lover", among others were freely thrown about. SWAT lined Gervais Street and all around the State House. The largest Confederate flag I have ever seen was laid out on the Capital steps (I'm trying to locate my pic of that - those were days of actual film!) and we were nervous about what might happen if the angry words turned physical. We made a plan on where we would run to if that happened. Thankfully it never did.


The flag was ceremoniously lowered, a large part of the crowd cheered while the others booed. Within minutes Civil War reenactors were rounding the corner of the building with the flag and proceeded to the newly installed flag pole in front of the Capital building. For those not from the area, if you are coming down Main Street in Columbia toward the State House you end up at the intersection of Gervais and Main. The State House is directly across the street. If you were to cross there, heading toward the front steps of the Capital, you would walk right past the Confederate flag. It's one of the first things you would see. It's right out front.

I have been back and forth with my feelings about this subject and have weighed both arguments heavily. I am fully aware of the history of the flag and I hope that before people jump on any bandwagon they do their research also.

"Heritage not Hate" is what a lot of bumper stickers say in the South but what does that mean? The heritage that people are speaking of is a heritage of oppression, segregation and battles to protect the right to enslave people. This is not a "heritage" that the State of South Carolina should be proud of. It does not represent all of its citizens and should be taken off the lawn of the Capital. Explain this flag any way you want to. Try to convince people that it should be glorified but the simple fact is that it represents a movement of inequality.

That's not something to celebrate. That's something to be ashamed of.   It's time to take it down.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Key Largo - Day 2 & 3

On the 14th we got up early and had breakfast at Harriette's Restaurant in Key Largo.  I wasn't feeling very well but ate anyway since we had a big day ahead of us.  Before leaving I got a key lime muffin since it had amazing reviews online.  I figured I could eat it later that evening when I was feeling better.  I ended up getting sick and vomited my breakfast up that morning anyway.  Ugh.

After breakfast we headed to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for our snorkeling adventure.  I brought my own snorkel and mask that I bought for the cruise to Mexico a few years before and we rented one for Tabitha at the gift shop/ticket office.  We previously made reservations for the longer snorkeling excursion since I read that it was less crowded and they took you to two different dive spots, one being the Dry Rocks Reef that is the site of "Christ of the Abyss", which I really wanted to see.  When we called the office that morning to confirm our reservation they told us that the conditions were slightly rough so they wouldn't be going to the Christ statue and that only experienced swimmers were allowed.  We are both experienced swimmers so that was no worry but we were definitely bummed that we couldn't see the Christ statue.  We decided to do the shorter tour instead.

After checking in and getting Tabitha's mask, snorkel and fins for both of us we headed to the designated waiting area.  While sitting there I assessed the crowd and tried to figure out who, out of all of us, would get eaten by a shark.  I, for the first time in my life, wasn't the meatiest one so that made me feel better!

Surveying the other passengers...

After boarding the boat we headed out on the ocean and the water was so pretty, blue and inviting!  We kept saying how lucky we are to live so close to this and how we need to take advantage of it more often. 

Breathtaking, clear blue water of the Keys!
 Tabitha is super excited to go snorkeling!

When we finally reached our snorkeling spot they gave us the rundown on the reef, how to protect it while you are swimming and also where not to go while in the water.  One by one we sat down by the ladder, put our fins on and climbed into the amazingly warm water and headed out to the reef.  The swim to the reef was a good distance from the boat and the water was definitely choppy that day.  Once we got situated in the water we went under and swam toward the reef while the water bobbed us all over the place.  Every once in a while we'd have to come up and check out where we were and if we were swimming in the right direction since the current was so strong.  We definitely weren't the only people doing that! When we finally reached the reef we could relax more and explore the area.
Tabitha and I should have discussed how to communicate with each other while under water!  I would point that I was headed in a certain direction but how would she know that I wasn't just saying to look at something?  Lesson learned!  We are definitely ready for next time!

We swam, drifted, floated and explored and it was so beautiful.  I have to admit that I'm a huge scaredy cat of the ocean and I was constantly on high alert for sharks but we didn't see any, thankfully!  We later found out that several other people did see a small shark.  Glad it wasn't me!  Anyway, I would get so lost in looking at things that I wouldn't see Tabitha and would do a mini-panic and turn in a circle to look at her.  I should have tied a rope around her!  Later on she said that she was just giving me some space and I was like "Noooooo - don't leave my side - I'm scared of the water!!" I love it.  I love being in the ocean but I also respect it - and what lives in it!!

We saw some really cool stuff while snorkeling and one of my favorite things was a sea urchin that was sitting on top of a huge piece of coral.  So cool seeing one!  Reminded me of when that girl caught one on Naked and Afraid.  I love that show!

Sea urchin sighting!!
The absolute BEST thing we saw while snorkeling was a sea turtle!  We were near maybe 2 or 3 other people when all of the sudden I saw something big swim by.  I did a double take and realized it was a massive turtle.  I couldn't believe it!  It swam ahead of us then did a u-turn and swam back toward us.  I had my camera in hand and managed to capture a couple of photos of it.  The photos do not do the size of the turtle any justice.  The thing was ginormous!  It was one of the best moments of my life to see that right in front of me and especially to share that moment with Tabitha!  

I don't even think the guy knew there was a turtle below him!
 After a while we knew it was almost time to head back to the boat so we starting swimming back and took some photos along the way.

As you can see it was a long swim back to the boat from where we were on the reef!


When we finally got back to the boat a lot of the others had arrived as well.  We swam closer to the boat and started to take off our fins so we could climb the ladder. It was quite the task treading water while reaching down to remove them.  I really wasn't thinking, but in hindsight I should have blown up my life vest a bit to make it easier on myself.  

Photo op before getting on the boat
Tabitha had her fins off first so she went up the ladder and waited at the top for me.  I put my foot on the first step and started to lift myself up and as soon as I did that I knew I was in trouble.  I said out loud "I have sea legs" because I felt so wobbly.  Tabitha knew something was up so she reached down to grab my hand to lift me up.  I thought that the wobbly legs was the extent of it but when I got on deck I took a step and literally collapsed.  I didn't fall over totally (thank God!)  I basically fell to my knees and Tabitha lunged toward me to help.  Everyone was looking and I was mortified!  The Captain asked if I was okay and I said yes and that I just needed a minute.  I crawled to to get out of the way of the others coming up the ladder - that must have been pretty - and sat on a bench nearby.  After several minutes I felt that I was okay enough to make it back to my seat up front where our stuff was.  When I reached my seat I felt queasy and realized that because I threw up earlier I had nothing in my stomach, especially protein, and my body was probably pissed off.  All I kept thinking was everyone needed to get on the boat fast so we could get back to the park.   

After the boat was loaded and a head count was taken we headed back to shore... then the boat broke down.  Just my luck!  At that point I turned around and rested my head on the rope so I could be closer to the side of the boat if I threw up, which I knew was coming eventually.  The water had not calmed down all day so the boat was rocking back and forth.  I'm not one to get sea sick but the constant motion along with my stomach being so upset was not a good combination.  I leaned over onto Tabitha and just waited and prayed that they get to motor fixed ASAP!  It took about 10 minutes until we were on our way again.  It seemed like an hour!

Feeling crappy.
When the boat started moving again I felt it coming up.  I knew that I was going to throw up and I wanted to be as discreet as possible since everyone on the boat already thought I was a freak for falling.  I leaned over the side (we were at the very front of the boat) and threw up.  Since I had nothing in my stomach it was basically water.  Isn't it amazing how good you feel right after you puke?  I knew I was going to be alright so I turned around and the Captain noticed and asked if I had a good nap.  He thought I was sleeping when my head was resting on the rope.  I told him about not feeling well that morning and that I threw up.  He had no clue which made me feel better - hopefully no one else did either!

We got back to the park and my legs felt much better by then!  We turned in our gear and headed back to the car and decided to go directly from the park to find a place for dinner.  I was starving and really needed something fast!  We decided to go to a place in town called Mrs. Mac's Kitchen which was on the way back to the estate.  It was still soaking wet when we got to the restaurant and was happy that they had vinyl seats so I wouldn't leave a bit wet spot.  The food was really good and we had a super cool server.  It felt so good to get something in my stomach!

We passed Mrs. Mac's several times going up and down US1 previously and saw that they had a sign out front that said World Famous Key Lime Pie so of course we had to  get some and judge for ourselves.  I think Tabitha and I are pretty schooled in the key lime category so we got some to have back at the estate.  My goal was to get in the kayak with my pie and float out in the middle of the water and have dessert.  That sounded like a perfect ending to a beautiful day on the Keys!

I told Tabitha about my pie plan so when we got back to the estate we took our pies and got in the tandem kayak and paddled out of the inlet into the open water.  We learned fast that the current was incredibly strong and we just didn't feel like working that hard to fight it so we paddled back in.  Tabitha wanted to go swimming but I had enough of being in the water for the day so I took my pie and sat and watched the sunset.  Nothing like key lime pie in the Keys while watching the sunset, right?  

So, this pie.  I would have taken a photo of it but I ate it too fast.  It was delicious!!  I can honestly say that this pie was the best key lime pie I have ever tasted.  It was creamy and had the perfect amount of tart mixed with sweet.  Sooooo damn good!   Watching the sunset on the water while eating it made it even better!

Perfect sunset for pie on the Gulf!

After Tabitha had enough of swimming and I was (sadly) finished with my pie we relaxed on the lawn chairs and watched the sunset.  I'm really glad we picked a place to stay that was on the Gulf side of Key Largo.  Such amazing sunsets!

We had a long, fun-filled day and knew we had to get up early the next morning to hit the road.  Unfortunately Tabitha had to be at work by 1pm so we turned in for the night.  We were both so tired and it didn't take long to fall asleep.  That's always the best kind of sleep!

The following morning I woke up much earlier than when the alarm was supposed to go off so I went for a walk around the estate since I hadn't had the opportunity to do so before that.  There are so many crazy, unidentifiable (to me) sounds that early in the morning.  We have the same at our house and I'm always curious as to what they are.  I swear that sometimes I hear monkeys.  I feel like I live in the jungle some mornings!  Since we were on the Gulf side I couldn't see the sunrise but there was still a brilliant golden glow on our side that was gorgeous.

Good morning lizard!

Tabitha was still sleeping when I got back to our room so I packed our stuff up and loaded it into the Jeep.  Soon after she woke up we decided to go to Denny's for breakfast.  I was feeling sick again so I decided to go with something safe to eat and got a turkey club and a bowl of fresh fruit.  I figured the dry sandwich would be better for my stomach than an egg would be.  I finished my fruit and ate less than half my sandwich.  I felt better but not great.

Before heading back home we went to the one gift shop we saw in Key Largo.  I was hoping it was something like those cheesy beach shops you usually see but it was actually kind of expensive with higher end gifts.  Wish I had some extra money!  I ended up getting some postcards and Tabitha bought a chocolate covered key lime ice cream bar on a stick.  I had a taste of it when we got in the car and it was really good but there's no way I could eat one with my stomach the way it was.  

We finally started on our way home and when we got to town we stopped by the dog sitters house to pick up Murray who was really excited to see us!  It was a fast two days but we really needed the break from reality and some salt water therapy.  Key Largo is so close to home but seems like a million miles away.  I love that!

So, back to that key lime muffin from Harriette's... I ate it the day after we got home and holy crap!  It was amazing! I'm still dreaming about it and also that pie from Mrs. Mac's.  Like I said, Key Largo isn't that far away and I'm not above a short road trip just for pie.  Just sayin'!

Key lime muffin from Harriette's in Key Largo!  Go get one!!