Saturday, April 28, 2012

How Do You Be Honest, Kind, Direct And Nice, All At The Same Time?

Earlier this week, Will came home from school visibly a little down in the mouth. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that his friends at school were calling him "weird". To be sure, Will has a quirky sense of humor, and does some kind of off the wall stuff sometimes, but weird? I know I'm his mom but I don't think so. Anyway, I asked him if he thought he was weird, and he said, "No, but all these people keep saying it, and I start to think it's true."

Now, to keep this in perspective, Will is extremely sensitive. His teacher has assured me repeatedly that he has plenty of friends in the classroom, is doing very well socially, etc., so I'm pretty sure that this is not nearly as ongoing as he might feel that it is but still, that's not something you ever want to hear coming from your child's mouth.

I assured him that he is not weird, but unique, and that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. As I was talking to him about being true to yourself and trying not to worry about what people think, it struck me that I was being a little bit hypocritical. I started thinking about how I act when I'm online. In person, it generally is a case of what you see is what you get, but when I'm writing on my blog, or other social media, I don't think I'm as authentic as I'd like to be.

There are several reasons for this. The first is that I cannot stand to see either constant complaining, or constant bragging, and for this reason, I'm so trying to not do that, that I think I might go too far the other direction. Another reason is that while I talk a good game, I'm a total marshmallow. It takes little to nothing to win my sympathy and/or my forgiveness. And while I love the style of the bad ass bloggers like, and, I am not thick skinned enough to deal with the inevitable backlash of writing like that, much as I'd like so sometimes. Maybe that develops over time or maybe they are just tougher than I am; either way, some of the comments I've read online would probably have me in bed with a box of tissues for a week.

More reasons - I hate conflict. I'm not good at handling confrontation calmly. Generally I am just too gobsmacked to respond, OR I go nuts and say all kinds of things that really should get me put away. The best thing I read somewhere online, "If you get into a fight with someone on the internet, you have already lost." I think this is totally true. Some of the interactions I've read and had, have actually left me with trembling hands and a racing heartbeat.

Another interesting aspect of online interaction is that so many people feel at liberty say whatever they want from the safety of their computer. My Facebook friends know that I used to not be able to stay away from the comment section of our local newspaper because the conversations that went on there were a TOTAL train wreck. Those people were out and out hateful, mean, and sometimes dangerous sounding. That problem has gotten better through some changes the paper made, thank goodness, but I guess my rule of thumb is to remember that if I wouldn't say it to someone's face, I probably shouldn't say it online.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I'm having a hard time finding the line between being real and being nice. And while it may sound cheesy, being nice is important to me. I am a nice person, and it's important to me that my children are nice people too. Yet more than anything, I want them to be proud of who they are and not conform to the herd. Because like I told my son, one of the most unhappy periods in my life was spent trying to be someone I'm not.

Do you guys have any advice? Is it too simple to say "be nice or be gone" here in the blogosphere? How do you balance courtesy with honesty?

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

I'm A Nosy Neighbor. But It's Cool.

Where does your food come from? A few years ago, I would have answered this question by naming my favorite grocery store. In the not too distant past however, I began to have a deeper interest in food, particularly in it's origins. Granted, the buy local movement is at heights that I never would have imagined five years ago, so I'm not exactly setting a trend here, but, the more I've learned, the more I've been interested in the process that allows us such an array of amazing things to eat, right here in Charleston.

The South has historically been an agrarian society. Agriculture has played an enormous role since day one of European settling and while that role may have morphed over the centuries, farming has never gone away. Even more locally than that, Lowcountry has farm traditions that go back generations upon generations. We in Charleston are literally surrounded by a multitude of farms producing everything along the gamut of basic issue garden veggies to rare and almost forgotten delicacies.

Yet when I make my regular grocery shopping trips, I don't usually see Pete Ambrose's strawberries. Or Joseph Fields' tomatoes. Grocers, especially Piggly Wiggly and Whole Foods are including more locally sourced produce but local can be a farm that's 500 miles away. Granted, that is better than getting your tomatoes from a corporate farm in California but I'd really rather have the ones I know are growing ten miles away. But to get those, I need to drive ten miles to the farmer's market on a Saturday morning. True, this market is a wonderful place to get amazing produce and more, but when I'm on my way home from work and have two children in tow, that market can seem a million miles away.

Problem, meet solution. Last summer, I noticed that we were getting new work neighbors. My office is on Morrison Drive (NoMo, for those of you hip Charleston City Paper readers), and when people do something like, say, paint a gigantic mural of pure awesome on the side of a building, I notice.

I'd like to introduce my neighbors, GrowFood Carolina. Here, in their own words, is what they do: "GrowFood Carolina is a non-profit local food hub with a mission to revitalize our local food system. We support local farmers with crop planning, warehousing, distribution, and marketing and sales coordination in an effort to increase the amount of local food sold in the marketplace. GrowFood Carolina also plays a critical role in the promotion of sustainable agriculture through community partnerships, outreach and education."

By partnering with grocery stores, restaurants and other food providers, GFC becomes the middle man between the farmers and the consumers. While you cannot buy directly from them, they are making serious headway in making it more accessible and convenient. This is super exciting to me because I'm a busy working mom who wants to buy locally but doesn't have the time to commit to it other than the occasional trip to the farmer's market. And while I do believe that there is a place for some large scale agriculture - I just want to have access to the local stuff as much as I can.

What I really would like to point out how much this benefits the community as a whole. Local consumers doing business (albeit indirectly) with local producers. Corporations become more anchored and invested in the communities they serve. Farming traditions being passed down to future generations. Education and empowerment in financially depressed rural areas. People recognizing that we are all connected, no matter how tangentially. Keeping our money in our community! Honestly, I just can't see a downside.

GrowFood has kindly provided me with some easy ways to be involved with this effort:

• BUY LOCAL and demand more local products wherever you eat or buy fresh food. Even a small increase in the amount we source and consume locally can make a huge difference.

• Educate others in the community on why it’s important to keep more of our food dollars in South Carolina.

• Financially support GrowFood Carolina through private donations and grants.

• Support organizations and programs that benefit local farmers.

• Support our customers! Visit our website for the most current list.

If you want to know more, check their website and social media: AND AND @growfoodsc - Twitter

I'll leave you with this video that is actually a commercial for Chipoltle. I saw it for the first time on the Grammy's and loved it. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did...

What about you guys? Do you find it challenging to buy locally? Are you interested? Do you think it's a trend or a change? I'd really love to hear from my readers around the country for some regional perspectives!

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Vacation Where We Did Nothing

Last weekend, Lawton and I decided on a whim to go to Florida with a friend and his children, so Sunday morning we loaded up and headed south. We arrived in Palm Coast around 2:30 and began getting settled in to our digs. About 2:31 the children hit the pool.

Standing on top of the waterfall/hot tub, freezing.
And stayed there. For two and a half days. This is no ordinary pool mind you, but by about the 48 hour mark, I was getting a little stir crazy and the four children had started bickering, and I was seriously not interested in that. 

So we grabbed up ours and took them to Flagler Beach, just about ten minutes down the road. I haven't been to the beach in Florida since I was in high school and I had forgotten how different the water is from ours, which is, for those of you who aren't familiar, a kind of murky/dusty greenish color in which you can't see squat. The kids were amazed at the clear blue water and loved seeing the fish swimming around under the Flagler Beach pier.

You knew that boy would sniff out the tacos. 
We also visited a local surf shop for some FLA paraphernalia, and like any good tourists, bought shark tooth necklaces. The fact that I can go get the same necklace anywhere around Charleston is not lost on me, but the kids think they are cool, so we bought them we did. We meandered around the beach town a little and I was almost convinced that I was back home on Folly Beach - they were quite similar, complete with the group of retired men who fish the pier together in the mornings. There was an outstanding ice cream shop that we of course had to try, and after that we headed back to the house. Once we got back, we loaded all the kids up in the back of the truck and went to the beach (yes, we drove the .75 miles to the beach like the Beverly Hillbillies. Class all the way here folks.) where I of course forgot my camera.

 Anyway, other than that, we really didn't do much other than chill. I had all these ideas for things to do but the kids really just wanted to play in the pool/yard, and who am I to crush their dreams of doing nothing? It really was nice to just relax and visit. I threw a line out of couple of times and caught some random fish in the ICW but mostly we just enjoyed the scenery and the company.

Sunset on the ICW. Not bad, huh?   

On the way home, we stayed on A1A, and stopped for lunch at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine. Very nice beach park - totally pristine. We ate our picnic and let the kids out on the beach some since we were going to begin the drive home in earnest from there. It really was such pretty weather and I could totally envision going back there to camp and play.

We got home around 8PM, got the kids tucked in around 9. I was allllmost asleep at 10:15 when Cecilia threw up on her floor. After having had fruit punch lemonade with her dinner. Just use your imagination. Or don't, actually. Anyway, we got her cleaned up, the floor cleaned up and settled in again.What, you didn't think that this whole vacation would be completely without incident did you? So not the Connelly way. Oh, and the dog had a blast too - she killed about a hundred lizards while we were there so this is how she spent the ride home:
Normally she whines and trembles. Endlessly. This is much preferred.
We had a really nice time and am looking forward to going again soon. Doing nothing ain't all that bad sometimes after all...

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rollin' Down The A1A. (I'm Resisting The Urge To Sing "Ice, Ice Baby")

Hi y'all! Starting today, this blog is on vacation! We're taking the kiddos south to FLA and Fort Matanzas (photo) in St. Augustine is on the list of things to do. We also plan to check out an alligator farm/activity center and maybe Marine Land too but mostly we're just going to take it as it comes. I'm pretty much checking out (literally as well as figuratively) so don't forget about me while I'm gone! Happy Easter everyone...

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Walk That Took A Very Unexpected Turn

It was this time last year that I went for one of my lunch time walks - this one was going to take place at Hampton Park. It's one of my favorite places to walk in the spring because the landscape is just too gorgeous for words, there are several different loops you can walk on and you can be totally alone if you want. Plus it has parking, which, as my fellow Charlestonians know, is kind of a big deal.

I had just parked my car and was heading towards the park when I realized that the scene next to me just didn't seem right. I turned, and with a closer look, realized that something wasn't just not right, it was terribly wrong. At the car next to mine, a teenage boy was trying to roust a girl about the same age. My first impression was that he was harassing her, but a moment's observation let me know that was not the case.

"Hannah. Hannah. Wake up Hannah. Come on, Hannah, wake up! We're going to get in trouble." At this, the mom instinct kicked into overdrive. I lingered, watching and listening. The young man gently shook the girl by the shoulders, all the while calling her name and urging her to wake up. He paused for a moment, and when he straightened up, I got my first glimpse of her. Lifeless. Limp. Not really breathing, just kind of gurgling a little.

I walked up slowly and said as calmly as my pounding heart would let me, "Is she okay?" Looking guilty as sin, the boy replied, "Oh yeah, she's fine. She just has narcolepsy sometimes." Uh-huh. Me again, "Are you sure she's okay? She looks terrible." He began shaking her again, calling her name over and over, with what seemed like more urgency, now that there was an adult involved. When he stood up this time, she slumped over towards the passenger seat.

"She is NOT okay," I said. "I'm calling EMS. Move out of the way."

I opened the car door and reached in, hoping to all that is holy that when I touched this girl's shoulder that it would not be cold, or beginning to stiffen with death. She wasn't, thank goodness, and after I pulled her more upright, I dialed the magic digits, and began the agonizingly detailed conversation with the 911 dispatcher. The operator began typing furiously while talking to me, and I knew that the fire department had probably already sent a truck and that EMS was not far behind.

But when the emergency dispatcher wanted me to find out if she was breathing, I couldn't tell. She was warm, but she was also a grey color that was decidedly unnatural. I could feel a pulse, but really just could not tell if she was breathing. I was instructed to get her out of the car. "Hey!" I called to the boy, "Help me get her out of the car! The operator says she's supposed to lie down." He obediently tried to pick her up, but he was so scrawny it was no wonder he couldn't. We both got hold of her and laid her gently on the ground, resting on a blanket I had found in the back seat of their car.

Once she was laying down, it hit me. They were getting her into position for CPR. She was dying, if she wasn't dead already. Right there in front of me, on a beautiful spring day in lovely downtown Charleston. I was still on the phone with 911 and they were asking me to check for a pulse. I looked down at this girl. She was filthy. Covered with scabs. Greasy hair. Dirty clothes. The first thing that went through my head was that there was no way I was going to risk my health by trying to resuscitate her. I just couldn't take the chance that she was HIV positive - I have children and a husband to think of and contracting a disease like that was not a risk I was willing to take.

But I couldn't just sit there and watch her die either. So I told my hand to follow the directions of the dispatcher to search for a pulse, and when I still couldn't tell if she was breathing, I placed my hand directly under her nose, hoping to feel her breath. At that moment, I heard the sirens and heaved a sigh of relief. The young man, however, began to panic. "Oh my God, oh my God, we're going to be in sooo much trouble. Oh shit, this sucks. HANNAH WAKE UP!!!!!"  "You have GOT to shut up. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!", I yelled. "That is NOT helping!"

The fireman arrived and took over. About a minute after they got to work, EMS pulled up and began their work. The police showed up too, and began questioning both me and the boy, who apparently was in lot of trouble. Hannah was taken into the back of the ambulance. After about 10-15 minutes of this, the female police officer came over and asked me if I was okay. I assured her that I was fine, and finally just asked her what the hell was going on. "Heroin. She OD'd on heroin", she told me. "They can counter act it with meds in the rig but she'll need to go to the hospital."

You guys, this was a child. 16, maybe 17 years old. As I stood there in the parking lot, I wanted to sit down and cry my eyes out.  It was just heartbreaking to see the destruction this poor girl had visited upon herself. The adrenaline drained out of me, and I just kind of flopped down into the car and watched them all do their thing. The police officer looked over and told me that she knew it was upsetting, but to feel good about it, because I'd probably saved Hannah's life.

 I did feel pretty good about that, but what really struck me is that this was someone's daughter. I'm someone's daughter. I have a daughter. What if this was my child? Would someone help her if she was in dirty, strung out and in trouble? I hope so. I imagined my own child in that same terrible predicament, and said a silent prayer that someone would care enough to find out what was going on.

I don't tell you this story as a mean of glorifying myself, because truth be told, I really didn't do much other than make a phone call. I remind myself of this incident frequently when I catch myself making certain judgements about people that I don't even know. But I think one of the reasons that we so easily fall victim to stereotypes is that it makes it easier for us not to care. By viewing others by a term of description rather than as an individual, we can walk away more easily, pretending not to see the need in front of us. The truth is that we are all someone's children. And we all need a hand every now and then.

As for Hannah, I hope that wherever she is, she has found help. I hope she has a family who loves her. I hope she's free from addiction. And I hope that the experience I had with her will always remind me to look with eyes wide open, not with ones clouded by judgment.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cookies In Lieu Of Creativity

Anyone who has been following this blog for any length of time knows that I am not a blogger because I am driven internally to write. For some bloggers, writing truly is a part of their makeup - I am not one of them. What this means to you is that when I'm stressed, the already marginal flow of creative juices is squelched to well, not even a trickle. All brain power is directed elsewhere.

However. There is one thing that never, ever, fails to fascinate me and that is food. Unfortunately for my waistline, I find food endlessly intriguing. And so now, in a time of slumping blog status, I turn to my palette for inspiration. This is good for my readers too, because I have all kinds of fun recipes to share with you!

Let me give you some back story. About five years ago, my coworkers and I discovered an amazing bakery over on East Bay called Three Smart Cookies. You guys, this is no exaggeration - those were possibly the best cookies I've ever had. All of them. It didn't matter what you got, it was wonderful. Out of all the varieties they had to offer, the ginger cookie was my favorite. I would swoop down on the day old offerings and buy them all.

Sadly, Three Smart Cookies closed their doors awhile back. (Note: if they are still around in some incarnation, please, someone tell me, because sniff, I've missed them terribly.) Anyway, I'd been trying to recreate the fabulous ginger cookies forever and had a trail of wanton cookie destruction behind me. Oh, they all tasted good, mostly. But they kept turning out to be more like ginger snaps, which, while also quite tasty, was not what I was looking for.

Then. The heavens parted, light shone down all around me, and I could swear I could feel brush of angel's wings. Or that could have just been the heat from the oven. Not sure. But I digress. I ran across this recipe last fall when I saw it on my friend Lindsay Ferrier's website Suburban Turmoil. She had gotten from one of her friends, Tami Hodge. Y'all this cookie is viral. It's just that good.

So here's the deal. Those of you who are on a Dukan diet, a Paleo diet, an Atkins diet or any other kind of diet really just need to keep on moving. This is not the recipe for you. Unless of course you are willing to be corrupted, in which case, please stay. What surprised me about this recipe that it is actually a molasses cookie. I think maybe Three Smart Cookies called it ginger because maybe people don't think as positively about molasses? I don't know but the cookie is the same one, no mistake about that.

Here is where I really had to do a double take though - the secret ingredient is Butter Flavored Crisco. Do not, and I repeat, do not deviate from this. There is no substituting. Butter itself does not do the trick. Believe me, I tried. The other caveat I would add to this recipe is if you are using a non-stick cookie sheet, you may want lower the baking temp to 350. Not sure if this is just my oven, or if it's a universal thing, but these just are soooo much better when they come out at the still slightly gooey stage and then cool on a rack.

So, enough chatter from me. Here it is. The singular best cookie recipe you'll ever have. You may have a tastier recipe (doubtful, but possible I guess) but this one is simple, affordable and delicious, which is why I say it's best. Go, bake this. Try to prove me wrong. I dare you. I double dog dare you. You will probably need to bring me some for testing and accuracy. Enjoy!

TaMolasses Cookies
3/4 cup Butter Flavored Crisco
1 cup packed light Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Brer Rabbit Full Flavor Molasses (I have yet to find this brand but the kind I have works fine.)
1 egg
(blend above ingredients together til creamy)

2 cups White Flour (plus 1 – 2 tblsp depending if the dough is too sticky after final mixture)
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 Tblsp (or more ) Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cloves
3/4 tsp Ginger

Mix well into the creamed mixture. The dough should be very slightly sticky, but not so sticky that if you touch it would stick to your finger. you should be able to roll it in your hands without it sticking to your palms. if its too sticky add that 1 – 2 tblsp extra baking flour and mix again.

Roll into balls, roll into sugar, bake in a 375 degree oven for 9-11 minutes.

Note: I generally tinker with the spices as I like some more than others. Make it yours!

***This is Lindsay's picture, as I do not have the good sense to take one of my own.***

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