The Palmetto House 2

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During the holiday break, I had the pleasure of spending time with my cousins at a wine and cheese party. It reminded me of days gone by at the Palmetto House when our laughter had gotten a bit too loud and the cracking on each other just a bit too much on point. And as a result of my aunts’ nerves snapping, we were sent to “the couch.”  Usually during Christmas dinner I barely have time to utter a hello before I am chasing, wrestling, reasoning, and fussing with my toddler who is not yet old enough to converse with the other cousins over whether “Santa Clause had been good to him.” When I see my cousins for dinner, they are adults carrying on adult conversations, punctuated with the adult laughter, teaming with their spouses, and giving children instructions before returning to their individual conversations. Every once in a while, the childhood teasing and laughter would break through and I would find myself looking at them wondering when was the exact point we all grew up. And I realize that I don’t really know them anymore. I may know their chosen profession, how many children they have, who their spouses are, but I no longer know the day-to-day of them.  What are the little things that makes them laugh? What have been some challenges they have had to face? What do they do in their spare time? And they don’t know the day-to-day of me. It’s something that can be found out in a brief conversation I suppose, but it is difficult to have one of those as I am searching for the right food for my toddler that won’t be politely (and sometimes not so politely) be handed back to me. While I try to treasure the moments when my younger son can fit snug in my lap, I am counting down the days when I can send him off with the other children with a plate and a toy in spite of his difference. Maybe then, I can have those conversations.

For my cousins’ wine and cheese party though, the children were thankfully left in the care of their grandparents (a very rare treat), and I was able to focus on the event itself. I even had a good time. Our family has changed somewhat, with those who are with us in spirit and the addition of spouses, but not really.  As we ate, drank, played games, and cracked on each other (the shade throwing has been somewhat super-sized over the years…), I didn’t see the adults we had become, but I could reflect on the memory of us as children. And as my husband sat in the room with me and the arguments began to crescendo in terms of the advantage gained over the latest parlor game, I wondered if he could even take a glimpse of what my life was like before I knew him. The party took me back to the times of the Palmetto House. Only we could no longer be sent to the couch (though a couple of us should have been.) And though the conversations were never had, I felt like I got to know my cousins a bit better. Like who has watched Frozen over and over and over and over again. Which one of us enjoys sports (and not the usual suspects). Who has scientific knowledge. Which one of us is smarter than credited. Who likes romantic comedy. Which one of us likes girl groups. Who is really competitive. Sense of humor in the most unlikely places). And maybe my cousins could catch a glimpse of me…

Although we were not in the physical Palmetto House, my grandmother’s house, the spirit of that house was inside of all of us. In the laughter and the loud talking.  In the joking and the shade-throwing. And most importantly, in the seats on the couch that should have been taken by all 😉 .

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So Who Needs a Job Anyway?

Sociology of Education is a class in my program that sparked much discussion and debate. Some of the points made by my classmates I agreed with, others filled me with uncertainty, and then there are times when I was like, “No. Just no.” Then when I just can’t with some of the foolishness stated, I would give the side eye. I remember one day, a particular classmate who I consider a friend, came in ranting about a food preparer who made her sandwich improperly, despite her clear instructions. I forgot how many times the sandwich had to be remade and I am uncertain as to whether my friend even got the sandwich in a manner that was enjoyable to her. All I know is that proper sandwich-making became a huge topic of discussion in that our education system has successfully destroyed students’ ability to have deductive reasoning skills and understand simple instructions. I could not help but to agree as I had already witnessed my own son’s fight against the destruction of his creativity in that he thought breaking his crayons and shoving them into the crevices between his desk in protest, would be better than being subjected to coloring some two-dimensional picture against his will. I digress though, because I actually don’t want to discuss the many and continuing flaws in our education system. I do that all year long and I’m tired. I am still thinking a lot about my friend with the bad sandwich right now as I am realizing that the number of my experiences with poor quality restaurant service continues to rise. While I agree with the points made about the current education system contributing to food preparers who cannot fix a simple sandwich, I believe that this deficit goes beyond that. I say that the system has killed a sense of pride in one’s work. With a system that discourages failure and real consequences, is there any wonder that this has all filtered into the workforce as well? I don’t know the answer to that, but I have been encountering some people who act as if they won’t ever be fired for incompetence and that there is a job around every corner.

I can’t talk about my recent restaurant fails without talking about the fact that having a two-year-old is hard without the whole, “I don’t need this job” attitude. Anyone who has had to dine with children under the age of five knows that certain things need to happen so that parents and the rest of the guests can have somewhat of a pleasant outing:
1. Get the high chair/booster seat ready (And can you clean these things because you wouldn’t believe what children actually do in them…)
2. Please seat us in some out of the way place, especially if there are options.
3. Bring out the requested crackers/bread/fruit cup like we ask before taking our drink order. No, I mean it. Put the pen and pad down and go get this baby’s order. Please.
4. Do not place drinks/hot plates/dipping sauces directly in front of little hands.
5. Don’t just stand there looking at us all crazy when the above requests are made.

Then there are the other dining issues that go way beyond the inability to make a sandwich.

1. The Reluctant Hostess – Aren’t you guys supposed to be friendly and accommodating? So United States vs. Ghana World Cup Soccer coverage is on all of the televisions in the restaurant. Therefore, the hostess should know that when we request seating near a television in a near empty restaurant, we are there for the purpose of watching the match. So why seat us the furthest from the television as possible? Was this to be purposely irritating? So much for friendly and accommodating.

2. The Channel Changer – I’m recently understanding why my husband gets really frustrated with these particular people as I am getting more into watching soccer. We’re glued to the television, loudly cheering for the US attacker who is headed for the goal, which is a clear indication that we’re watching the game. Why has the channel suddenly been changed to horse racing? Really? What ever happened to asking first?

3. The Free Refills Hoarder – Our drinks have been sitting on empty a while and our server has been to the table twice. Why hasn’t a pitcher been brought or a filled glass during these visits? Or better yet, just take the empty cups. And why do you hurry away before we can even make the request for a refill? What is so urgent? And why does it seem when you do get around to replenishing our drinks, mine gets left out? This brings me to number four:

4. The Woman Hater – This is the waitress who always makes sure that my husband’s glass is full but I have to practically submit a bill to the Congressional Committee before this chick will even come near my glass. I mean, wow.

5. The Condiments Keeper – “Can you bring some A-1 Sauce, please?” “Sure,” comes the reply. Seconds, minutes, hours, the next day passes and the juicy steak that once looked appetizing is now cold. When the server returns, it is sands A-1 sauce. But my husband’s glass gets refilled for the 8th time. Really? At this point, I give up and start eating because I’m hungry.

6. The Fry Scrimper – Why does my 9-year-old have more fries on his plate than I do, like he’s the one paying the bill and leaving the tip? Meanwhile, I have barely enough to feed myself, let alone enough to be snatched up by little fingers who cares not to know the meaning of any kind of patience. I can’t help but wonder if my fries are being eaten between the kitchen and our table…

7. The Third Time Still Ain’t the Charm Server – My actual order is a grilled chicken salad with no egg. What I get is a small salad, which requires me to do something that I hate – send my order back to the kitchen. The right sized bowl returns. With egg. Back to the kitchen it goes. The Bowl gets set down before me a third time. I see the place where the egg has been scraped off. Really? So it doesn’t matter if I happen to be allergic? I’m not, but there are principalities involved in this! So with a sigh, I box everything up to eat later at home because at this point, I just…can’t. I can no longer. I’m done.

8. The One who Gives Not One Tinker’s Darn About the Dirty Dishes – I don’t actually know who Tinker is, but I do know he didn’t care and neither do these dishwashers, table setters, or servers. Do they even see the big ol’, dried up, sticky nasty crumb stuck to the plate? And can we have a replacement within this decade? And why are we given the side eye when we request our food to be placed on dishes that are clean?

9. Mayonnaise Goes With Everything Philosopher – I hate mayonnaise. I mean really. If you put mayonnaise on my food, I will make you take it back and you better be lucky I do not make you burn the plate as well. But the mayonnaise will leave me with an attitude big time, which is why I really, really need you to hear me and pay attention when I say, “No mayo.”

10. I Don’t Know What’s On My Own Menu Server – Hey, I don’t mind that you don’t know that you have Root Beer. Just do not tell me with all certainty that you don’t have Root Beer, when I know that you do. K? Thanks.

What is really sad is that I have encountered most of these incidents within the last couple of days. I am certain that my luck is not that bad. So the only conclusion I can draw is that people aren’t willing to go that extra mile anymore. Some are not even willing to do the basics. Believe it or not, you can find that “I don’t need this job” worker in my latest book in Destination Wedding, which goes to show that art truly does imitate life.

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Fathers are Not the Reserve Parent

A few days ago, my husband and I were having dinner with the family in a particular Ashville, North Carolina restaurant, when our two-year-old had a diaper disaster that required the skills, patience, and compromise that took both of us to remedy. While we worked quickly to clean up the baby, and get him into fresh clothing before the line at the bathroom door grew even longer, I realized that the pair of us make an awesome team. Yes, team. For far too long, in terms of parenting, a mother is regarded more than the father. Fathers are usually regarded as one of two things. They are either not a factor, or the “reserve” parent. We know more than we want to about the “not-a-factor” factor. I am not speaking about those who have passed on, because regardless of the length of time they have spent in the lives of their children, they have indeed impacted their lives. These fathers will always remain in the hearts of their children. When I speak of a father who is not a factor, I mean the one who fathers the baby, but does not stick around for the responsibility of parenting. This seems to be so common, that some single mothers feel compelled to be honored for both Mother’s and Father’s Day. Personally, I respond to that philosophy with a resounding, “No ma’am!” While we understand and acknowledge the challenges of being a single mother, they need not submit themselves to being the father too. A mother is not a father. She cannot instill in that child what only a man can teach. And for mothers who do not recognize the importance of man’s presence, they are doing their child a disservice. And to this end, I implore single mothers, if there is no father in your child’s life, please find them a positive male influence, pronto!
And then celebrate them on Father’s Day.
The reserve parent is what society thinks fathers are. It is like winning a beauty pageant. Like In the event the mother is unable to perform her duties as parent, the father takes her place. Um no. That’s not what I was taught about fatherhood. My father is not the reserve parent. He’s the co-parent. Sure mom picked out my clothes, styled my hair, and taught me how to be a young lady, but so did Dad. In equal measure. Sure, they fell into certain roles concerning our upbringing, but if my mother was not awake when Dad and I headed out into early morning, my father could get me washed, dressed, and do a mean Afro puff. No problem. Because of my father and his strong example of love, nurturing, and discipline, I was able to pick the perfect father for my own children who instill the same values. My husband is cooking meals, hosing down kids, and picking out hair. And outfits. He’s also teaching life lessons, math problems, and answering questions. He’s tossing the ball around and playing tic, tac, toe. My children are blessed to have their dad. And to him, I wish a Happy Father’s Day. And in the spirit of The Village, I am also grateful for their grandfathers, uncles, godfathers, teachers, mentors, and friends who are positive influences in their lives. To them, I also extend a Happy Father’s Day. And thank you, Daddy. I learned what a father is from you.

So as our son left that restaurant restroom clean and happy, I knew that it was due in part, to his dad. I am not alone in raising him. And for that, I am grateful.

The Reviews for “Marshland” and “The Promise of Palmettos” are In!

If you are still not convinced that you should give Marshland and The Promise of Palmettos a read, check out reviews.

http://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/1490348107/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

http://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/148008560X/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

Family – Part 1

Forgive me for not posting for a while. Between releasing a new novel and chasing a growing toddler around, this has been a hectic 30 days. Oh and I have been coordinating my family reunion…On my mother’s side. That definitely has taken a lot of out of me. It is a special time when my mother’s family gets together because we don’t get to see each other that often. When we do though, there is none of those awkward moments of trying to feel each other out. Nope. None of that. We always fall into that comfortable rhythm of people who have known each other for a lifetime. We just vibe like that.

It was unfortunate that between the early 1990s to about 2010, the reunions just…fell off. Before that point, my uncle was instrumental in bringing us all together for our reunions. He thought that it was important to 1) Know where we all come from and 2) Meet the members that make up this large family of ours. Four surnames comprise our family tree, but there are only three that are represented at the reunions, one name overwhelmingly so. That was evident as I stood up along with about 25 others during the family roll call as our surname was called. In spite of our reaching out with open arms to the other branches, that one particular surname is always the majority presence. I want to use this platform to let the other three know that they are always welcome to join our proud, history-filled, nutty, spade-playing, smack-talking, hard and soft drinking, always laughing, sometimes crying, sometimes misunderstanding, all-traveling, open-hearted, vast-political-viewing, multi-cultural, always hugging, over affectionate clan. We never ask why you went away, but we’ll always tell you that we’re happy you came.

Sadly, we lost one of us this week. While we are all grieving over the fact that he is no longer with us, we should take comfort in that he has been pulled into the welcoming bosom of those dearly departed. And you know what? They’re all happy that they are together once again, having their own reunion.

Palmetto May Days

FlowersRecently, I had a Facebook Friend who said that she wanted to get through May as quickly as possible because she couldn’t stand the month. Mother’s Day in particular was the holiday she wanted to avoid. I guess the rest of us take for granted that this day is a happy event for everyone. I thought about it and it hit me that the day is indeed painful for children who have lost maternal figures and it is painful for maternal figures who have lost children. After thinking about it some more, I realized that this fifth month of the year is bittersweet for me as well, although it hasn’t always been that way. My parents’ birthdays are in May. Grandmama’s birthday is in May. I loved Memorial Day because that’s when my mom said I could wear white clothes. That, and smelling the salty, ocean air mixed with the scent of charcoal reminded me that summer was right around the corner. Kevin and I decided to get married Memorial Day Weekend. In fact, we’re about to celebrate our 11-year anniversary. These events are the sweet of May.

Here’s the bitter: While Cinco de Mayo may be celebration for a lot of people, unfortunately for me it is the anniversary of the day I lost my grandmama. I am grateful that she was able to live a full life, but I still miss her. There are stories that I want to hear again. There are questions that I still want to ask. Yet, I am thankful that one of my sons got to know her and have his own memories. The other has never met her but shares her love of The Wheel of Fortune, which was what she was watching the last time that I saw her. I always talk about that. I always talk about Grandmama and no one seems to mind. They even have their own stories to share.

Then there’s the worst bitter: I lost my cousin in May. On Memorial Day Weekend. 11 Years ago. Perhaps I am wrong for discussing her now, the day after Mother’s Day when her mother misses her and when her daughter wishes she were around. However, her sudden departure from this earthly life affects me very deeply because we spent so much of our childhood through our teenaged years together. We visited each other when our families lived in New Jersey. After we all relocated to Hilton Head, we went to school together. We had the typical relationship of young girls. Most times we got along, sometimes we didn’t, but I knew her. If her daughter were to ask me, I have my own stories growing up with her mom. Like I know how she got that scar on her arm – the one that required stitches. And who do you think I fought with to shell the lima beans at Grandmama’s stand? We spent a lot of time on that couch in the Palmetto House. Then there was the extra-large makeup case that she used to take to school with her. Eventually it would end up in a tree along with our clothes and shoes after our football rivals from Jasper County became sore losers and raided the band bus. We wore colored flat shoes that matched our outfits. My prized New Edition poster came from her. We suffered through Ms. Jones English class together in High School (I don’t know about her, but she did me a huge favor being so tough on us). We All that Jazzed in the school show choir. We threw down to I’m Bad in band. After high school we had gone our separate ways and pretty much lived our own lives. Eventually as adults, we would find our way back into our friendship especially since we lived in the same city. I caught her bouquet at her wedding. My cousin came to my engagement party while her daughter was still growing in her belly. And I spoke to her on the phone the week before she passed. She wished me well and we promised to stay in touch with each other. That conversation still stays with me because in spite of everything, I am glad that I had that last opportunity to talk to her.

My blog is mainly recalling memories of growing up on Hilton Head and keeping those stories alive. We talk about my grandmama because she experienced so much during her lifetime. We don’t talk about my cousin though, although she made her own impact. She holds the distinction of being the first and only lawyer in the family. That’s quite an accomplishment seeing that most of our family were educators. She was also the first drum major in the family. I have another cousin who followed in her footsteps and is now a band director. I wonder how many of the young people in our family know that.

Maybe my cousin is hard to talk about because she was taken from us so suddenly. Unlike Grandmama, there was so much of her life that seemed unfinished but there are parts worth remembering and telling. Maybe as a family we can get to that point where it isn’t as painful to tell the stories. Until then, we’ll just white knuckle it through May, celebrating the parts that are sweet, like my anniversary and birthdays, and count the days until the arrival of June. As for me, I know how important it is to keep my cousin’s story alive, and we can’t do that if we don’t talk about her. Maybe it will make May a little less painful and we can start to enjoy the month again. Also, I firmly believe that she is in Heaven and when she’s not peeking in on us, she’s living in Glory with her husband. She’s sharing stories with our grandparents and her aunt. And she’s shelling beans with Grandmama…keeping those lima beans to herself ;).

Expanding the Palmettos

I was fortunate enough to be asked to be a guest blogger for one of my reading groups. This was a real honor for me. It gave people the opportunity to get to know me and present my work. In turn, I was able to share the reason why I have selected Low Country Fiction as my chosen genre. I invite you to visit the link below.

http://www.suspensemysteryhorrorandthrillersinblack.com/?p=288