Thursday, February 24, 2011

Today we traveled the back roads of South Carolina....

I imagined an entourage of cameramen with us today as we made good on one of our promises to ourselves to  travel the back roads of South Carolina.  Last year when I retired, Henry and I thought it would be kind of fun if we occasionally threw a dart at a map of South Carolina, jump in the car and make a day trip to a town that we've never been before.  It was a good thought but so far we haven't done much of it.  In December, we picked the little town of Ridgeway and discovered a century old hardware store still operating and a neat little antique shop to browse around in.  The Christmas decorations were up in all the store windows and it had the look and feel of an old fashioned Christmas village.  Ridgeway is a quaint little main street, early 1900's kind of town that deserved more attention than we had time to give it that day.

Today, we were ready for another trip.  Because of a car part that Henry needed to pick up, we didn't have to throw a dart this time.  We already had the destination - Ware Shoals, SC.  I had never heard of it, but because I found the name intriguing, I went along for the ride.  Our Lewis and Clark style expedition led us through the heart of upstate South Carolina, passing through the little towns of Chester, Carlisle, Whitmire and Clinton - finally arriving at our destination about 2 hours later.

It was all we had hoped for - the smallest of small!  Ware Shoals sits quietly on the banks of the Saluda River  and encompasses a tiny four square miles - 3.9% of it land and .1% of it water - and that tiny four square miles sits in three different counties - Imagine sitting on your back porch and spitting into three different counties - uh, not that I would ever want to, of course.  A large sign boasts of a Catfish Festival on Memorial Day Weekend which may in itself be a fun day trip - especially if they're serving fried catfish.  It must have once been a bustling mill town as there are old textile plants sitting empty and a "mill village" with row upon row of mill houses - some occupied, some not, but most in a state of disrepair.

As we drove through an intersection of the main part of town, we were both shocked to see this fabulous old building sitting right smack in the middle of the street.  If you ran the stop light, you would plow right into the middle of it, it was so close to the street.  Ware Shoals Inn - and then another grander building just down the street - Katherine Hall, these two were the obvious pride and joy of this small town. Seeing these great old structures resplendent in all their glory was a shocker after just passing by such obvious signs of shabbiness.
Ware Shoals Inn

Katherine Hall

I wish I could have found a better picture of the Inn.  It has wide steps leading up to a columned veranda style porch.  It has been restored and is now used as affordable apartments for elderly people and is a National Historic Building.  A 1930's postcard touted it as: "one of the newest and most modern hotels in the Northwestern part of South Carolina. In addition to 52 modern rooms, most of them with private bath, every room is an outside room well ventilated. Free Garage service for hotel guests.
The Ware Shoals Inn maintains an excellent dining room where the civic clubs meet regularly. It is a member of the Southern Hotel Association. It is operated on American and European plan. Special rates quoted by week or month. Rates from $1.50 up.Interesting. 

I wished we could stay here for a while - like maybe at the Ware Shoals Inn, but we had places to go and promises to keep.  We had not taken the time to look up much history of the town before we left home and by this time we were curious about how Ware Shoals came upon its name. We arrived at the garage to pick up the car part that had brought us to town and asked the mechanic about the name.  He had lived here all of his life and didn't know.  While the mechanic was taking his own good time about extracting the car part that was supposed to be ready for us to pick up from the vehicle that it was coming out of, we went to eat lunch.  We asked the man sitting at a table beside us about how the town got its name.  He had lived there since the 1970's, sold Liberty Life Insurance, had once been on the town council...and he didn't know. Now wouldn't you think that if you lived in a town with such a unique name, you would want to know how it got its name.  Of course, we are on the back roads of South Carolina, but still...  To give them credit, I'm sure we just asked the wrong people and could have gleaned more information, but those of you who know Henry and have heard the story about our trip to Savannah a few years ago, know that he zips in and out of a town like Richard Petty saying "we've seen it all now - it's time to go home". 

We were going to come home a different route just to see new scenery, but the mechanic had made me late in preparing dinner for a sick friend, so we hurried home the same way we came.  Good old Google provided us with how Ware Shoals came upon it's name.  In the 1800's, many families would come to this spot of the river to sit on the large rocks - or shoals - to picnic, fish, and just enjoy nature's beauty.  In time, a Mr.Ware built a gristmill at the site and it was named Ware's Shoals and later shortened to Ware Shoals.  

Mr. Ware, though you are long gone, we enjoyed our trek to the little town that was named in your honor.  If we had had that entourage of camera men, we may have come up with some better pictures...and maybe got more people to talk...  Next time maybe - when we decide to throw another dart.

Friday, February 18, 2011

If roadside trash could talk.....

In my new ever present writing frame of mind, I see a story in everything - so watch out, keep your secrets to yourself, because you never know who or what I'm going to write about next.  Genevieve loves to help me pick up trash off the roadside in front of our house and down the road a bit on the days I pick her up at the bus stop. We always wear disposable gloves and sometimes use one of those little long armed "grabbers" if something looks particularly weird. During one of our trash clean-up episodes, I started thinking, "If only this trash could talk, what stories would it tell?"  Then I decided that I would embellish a little and tell the "stories" of some recent finds.

Found:  A full bottle of hair salon hairspray.

Patty Puff and Ricky Rude are on their way to a movie.  Patty was running late when Ricky arrived so she decided to put on makeup and fix her hair in the car on the way.  She pulled down the little mirror on the passenger side sun visor and began.  A little make-up, a little lip gloss and next - the hair.  The finishing touch for the hair required the use of the brand new aerosol can of hairspray she just bought from her stylist last week. $18 for hairspray!, she thought.  Oh well, maybe it would give her the look that she always had when the stylist finished with her.  She gave it a hefty spray and the car was filled with a choking fog.  Ricky Rude coughed and sputtered and grabbed the can from Patty.  He said a few choice words, rolled down all the windows and threw the can out in a huff.  Patty Puff's hair was limp, Ricky Rude coughed up $18 bucks for the hairspray - but love is forgiving and they gazed into each other's eyes all during the movie.

Found: A bag with a pair of underwear - new with tags

In the late 1970's, there was a man who thought there was a serious shortage of underwear in America.  Because of this, he decided to go into the manufacturing business solely to produce underwear and to ensure that everyone had at least one pair.  His goal was to walk across America and put one on every street corner - you know, just like stop signs.  They called him Johnny Underwear and he is still walking to this day depositing underwear in the most unusual places.

Found:  A $5 bill rolled up in an empty pack of cigarettes  - This one is obvious.  Everyone knows that when you buy a pack of cigarettes, you are throwing your money out the window.

There's many other stories to tell - like the beer carton filled with empty bottles of beer - I imagined that one to be sad and didn't want to include it in my story.  You know - like DUI's and accidents and so on.  There's not much interesting about empty pepsi bottles and candy wrappers and other mundane stuff.  But stay tuned - someday I hope to tell you about the winning lottery ticket I found......

Monday, February 14, 2011

Do you remember being in PE class with a bunch of stinky, sweaty boys?

Sometimes a conversation with a teenager can be a blog all in itself.  Chloe was sick this morning when she got up but felt well enough to go to school after PE.  Does this sound like a familiar story?  Krista had to be at work early so I was to pick her up at 10:15, be at school with her by 10:30 and go to the office to sign her in.

At 10:08, as I was leaving my house to go to hers, I called her to make sure she was ready.  The conversation goes like this:  "Are you ready?"   "No-o-o, am I supposed to be ready?"   "Well yes, didn't your mom tell you to be ready by 10:15?"   "Yes, but it's only (pause - apparently looks at the clock) 10:08."  "But that's only seven minutes away, Chloe - will you be ready by 10:15?"   "Uh, maybe".

At 10:22 she walks out the door - not too bad for a teenager, huh?  "Did you get your late note your mom left for you?"  "No, was I supposed to?"   "Go back in and get your note off the table". 

On the way at last!  "I hope I've missed PE".  "Why don't you like PE?"  "Because you have to physically exert yourself".  "But you don't mind being physically exerted.  You jog everyday!"   "But it's different when you're in a gym full of stinky, sweaty boys", she said.   I'm suddenly transported back to high school PE with a whiffing memory of a gym full of stinky, sweaty boy smells.  "Oh yeah, I remember - I'm getting a whiff of it right now just thinking about it", I say.

"And I hate stripping down to my underwear in front of a bunch of girls I barely know".  "Don't you have to take a shower?"  "Well, that would be worse that stripping down to my underwear, wouldn't it?", she said as if I should know better.  The magic door opened again and once again I was standing in the locker room at Parkwood High School with a shower full of girls who had no modesty whatsoever.  I would wait until everyone left and would take a quick shower and was always late for my next class. And I'll admit, there were times that I skipped the shower and just covered myself in deodorant.  I was that modest.

"I understand", I said.  "I wasn't much of a PE fan either."  "Mawmaw, you're the best!" rang musically in my ears until we got out of the car and headed to the office.  "Uh, Mawmaw, would you mind taking the note and signing me in and I'll run on to class?"  I signed her in and watched her as she stood unsure if she should just go on or if she needed to wait.  The secretary gave her a pass and sent her on her way.  My heart expanded with love for this no longer a child, but not quite woman who would one day find her place in a world full of uncertainties. It took me quite a while, but I did.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Don't judge a books by its cover

We had something in common, she and I.  We both sat in the waiting room at the dentist office – me in my dressy casual clothes and she in her fringe coat, cowboy boots and a slouch hat.  Having the same dentist and being possibly in the same generation is where the common denominator stopped though, I thought. I commented on the fake quality of the vintage science fiction movie that was playing on the big screen.  “Oh, that’s Star Wars”, she said. Embarrassed that I had never watched Star Wars, I said “Oh, it is, isn’t it?  The lighting in here is too bright for me to be able to see it”.  She could tell I was faking it so she started filling me in on Star Wars trivia.  I tried to pretend interest, but she was very perceptive and changed the subject.

Now I'm the type of person who usually brings a book to read while waiting for appointments so that I really won't have to carry on awkward conversations.  Henry on the other hand never lets there be a lull in conversations and if there's no-one to talk to, he’ll go find someone.  I was beginning to wish Henry was with me - she would have given him a run for his money.

"Have you seen any good movies lately?" she asked as I was trying to tune her out.  I told her that we rarely go to movies, but I had been watching some Harry Potter and Pirates of the Carribean with the grandchildren.  She didn't have any grandchildren, she said - she had been married briefly once but was divorced.  She started telling me all the movies she had been to see recently - most I had never heard of.   I was feeling sorry for her not having any grandchildren and I thought maybe she was trying to fight loneliness by going to the movies.  At the same time, she was looking at me - like maybe she was feeling sorry for me for not getting out more and thinking that I was stuck home with the grandchildren. We were sizing up each others' feelings without knowing the circumstances.  We still hadn't found any common ground but now I was determined to find just one thing that we might have in common other than having the same dentist.

“Do you like to read?”, I asked her.  She started naming all her favorite authors and some of the books she had recently read. I guess I had an incredulous look on my face and when I told her those were my favorite authors and I had recently read some of the same books, she also looked surprised.  I think we had just about given up on each other.  From then on, we had a very animated discussion about books - she's writing one also.  The next thing I know the hygenist is calling me back to her office and I'm disappointed that we don't have more time to talk. We exchanged email addresses and blogs and promised to critique each other's writing sometime.

By the way, her name was Glynda with a "y" and I guess we had things in common after all.  Sometimes you just have to dig deep to find the common thread that connects humankind.  I've decided to stop taking books to the doctor's office.  I'm missing out on good conversations, good writing material and connections with all God's children.  And as the old saying goes, you can't judge a book by it's cover.  

Meaningful Bible verse for today:  Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  1 Peter 3:8

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In everything give I have to?

As I was reading my devotion and saying my prayers tonight, I thought of all the things I have to be thankful for.  The scripture I was reading from was: 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It says: "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you".  Hmm…do I have to be thankful for everything...?  I have to admit that there are some things that I am not thankful for. If you’re like me, there are some areas in your life you need to be working on.   I think I’m a generally thankful person, at least in those areas where it’s easy to be thankful.  I’m thankful for an amazing family;  I’m thankful for great friends and a great community to live in.   It’s easy to be thankful for those things.....but there are some things that it’s just dog gone hard to be thankful for. I have a hard time being thankful when people I love are sick….or when I hear of crimes committed, accidents that take a life, child abuse, people losing their jobs….the list goes on. 

But the scripture doesn’t say “For everything give thanks”, it says “In everything give thanks”.  Is there a difference?  "In everything" seems to mean that no matter what you've been dealt, there are circumstances to be thankful for - if you're in an accident, be thankful you are still alive; if you've been robbed, be thankful that you were not hurt.  If you have been hurt by someone, be thankful for the people in your life who help you to heal.

Every time I read this scripture, I  think about the late Corrie ten Boon who wrote The Hiding Place.  That was one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read!   Corrie and her family risked their lives by hiding Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland during WWII.  They were all eventually sent to a concentration camp and she lost her sister and her father there.  At one time, she and her sister were in a barracks where everyone had lice.  As they prayed during their Bible studies, her sister would thank God, “even for the lice”.   Later they learned that because of the lice, the guards left their barracks alone – which is why they could hold the Bible studies that were such a comfort to everyone.  From everything I’ve heard about the effects of lice, I’m not sure I would have the faith to be thankful for them.

I do know that looking back on things that have happened in our lives, there have been good things that have come out of bad.  Henry was drafted but circumstances happened that he didn’t have to go to Vietnam.  The circumstance was that Russia invaded Czechoslovakia and his Nuclear Weapons training sent him to Germany to be a “bomb” guard near the Czech border.  So I’ve always been thankful for Russia’s aggression. (just kidding).  As Corrie ten Boon once said, "God does not have problems, only plans". 

I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t expect us to be thankful for the bad stuff that happens in our life.  But he expects us to have enough faith in Him to know that He is in control and there will be good that comes out of the bad.  How we handle the bad can be an inspiration to others.  Our hard knocks help us give counsel to others;  the grief we experience can help us give comfort to those about us who grieve.

For right now, I will be thankful for winter, because I know that it signals the spring.  I will be thankful for darkness, because right behind it comes the light.  And I will work at “In EVERYTHING give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for me”.   I’m a slow learner, but I'm thankful that I have the ability to learn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If you read too much about writing, you write too much about reading.....or something like that....

I recently bought several self-help books about writing.  While I was in the third chapter of the first book, a sentence caught my attention..."If you read too many books about writing, you will spend more time reading than writing."  Hmm..... this is a book about writing - she's the author - doesn't she want me to read it?  Not a good way to sell books, do you think?

Of course, that was shortly after she told me to read one hundred books in the same genre that I want to write - books similar to the one I'm writing.  My first thought was, this is going to be fun....and then she said, "don't think this is going to be fun. Instead of reading for pleasure, you will need to read to analyze the writing style, character development, relationships, pausing points, etc."  Whoa!  You mean I can't read for pleasure?  OK, I think - if I can't read for pleasure, I'll just re-read some of my old favorites and analyze them.  (sigh)  The next sentence in the book reads, "If you are thinking about reading over some of the books you've read before, don't. You will need to start with fresh material."

Wait up!  This is getting eerie. Is this book getting into my it reading my mind?  Has the author cast some mystical spell on the book that as soon as you open it, it starts siphoning all of your book ideas right out of your brain so the author can write all those prize-winning books you were going to write and claim them as her own?  ......Nah --- that's science fiction ---- I don't do science fiction. 

But seriously...."don't read too many books about writing; don't read for pleasure; analyze every book you read?" ................  Does anyone want to buy a slightly used book on writing - excellent condition - no dog ears after 3rd chapter?   Half price - $9.99.