Rex Porter, 30 is too young to die.

Yesterday we said goodbye to a wonderful young soul whose dash was much too short.

Rex Porter was killed on Sunday, August 23rd, in a tragic vehicle accident. After enjoying the company of friends on a Sunday afternoon, the weekend of his 30th birthday, he went home to check on his dog before his shift at the Windjammer. While driving to work, too fast for this narrow 2 lane road, he lost control of his vehicle on one of the curves and struck a tree, ending his too-short life and leaving a wake of broken-hearted friends and family.

Rex Stephen Porter was born on August 20, 1985 in Canton, Ohio. A Clemson graduate and fan, he has been working at the Windjammer for 8 years, which is where we met him. To know Rex was to love him, and there were so many lives and hearts he touched.

My heart always aches the most for the families, especially the mothers, who are left behind when a young person dies. In this case, my heart aches just as much for his precious dog, Joanna, who will never understand why her person hasn’t come home to her. She is a special dog and they had a special bond. We got to know her because she would often come to work with him in the slow winter season. She would just hang out behind the bar and follow him around. She will never know why she has been abandoned.

After the memorial service at the mortuary, friends and family gathered at the Windjammer to share stories and celebrate Rex’s life. There were so many people who came from near and far to share funny tales of this unforgettable young man. My words could never do justice to the character of this guy, but anyone who met him and spent any time with him came away with at least one memorable story. I don’t think anyone could ever say anything bag about Rex. He was that kind of incredible and positive guy.

I will share here our little story of Rex that Ben told on stage at the wake. One of the first summers we knew Rex was a summer Ben worked with him at the Windjammer. Rex drank too much at the end of his day shift and needed a place to sleep it off, so we took him to our place just 4 blocks away. After making sure he was comfortable on the living room futon with a pillow, blanket and bottle of water nearby, we returned to the Windjammer to enjoy the rest of our evening. When we returned home later that night Rex was gone! We thought maybe he woke up and had someone come get him and didn’t worry too much. But when I went into the bathroom I got a big laugh… he was curled up in the fetal position, just as cute as could be, sleeping in our bathtub! Oh, Rex. One day I will find the photo I snapped and post it here for the rest of the world to adore.

Rest in peace, my sweet friend. We love you and will miss you.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/charleston/obituary.aspx?n=rex-stephen-porter&pid=175657216&fhid=23133

Ending a chapter

John Burroughs said, “Leap, and the net will appear”.

I’m putting my faith in that, as I gave my resignation letter to my employer today. After working for the City of Isle of Palms for 7 1/2 years, my last day of employment will be September 17th.

The Isle of Palms is a small, (mostly) quiet beach town. I love this city and I have loved being a part of the community. I have also loved being a part of the police and fire family, along with the other city offices. My decision to leave was not an easy one, especially since I regard so many of my coworkers with a familial respect and affection, but I feel this is the best decision for my personal growth, both personally and professionally.

My immediate plan is to take some time off and travel with Ben on his business trips. After all, someone needs to spend those miles he earns. I think I’m up to the task!

I don’t know what my next step will be. I’ll figure that out later. Life is for living. I’mma get out there and do that the best I can, while I can!

Scar Tissue on the Heart

Sometimes scar tissue hurts more than a fresh wound.

It has now been over a year since my dad passed away. I’ve been back to my parents’ house several times this past year, but this weekend was the most painful, by far. I felt his absence more than any other time.

Maybe the numbness has worn off, because I’m suddenly feeling more grief than I felt during the first month he was gone.

The purpose of this visit was to visit with my mom and to attend a baby shower for my childhood best friend. There were baby shower games, of course, and one of the games was “guess the name of the baby”. There was a monogram for the baby so we knew his initials were BGD.

The first name was guessed pretty quickly, and then the middle name was guessed. As people shouted out guesses, my friend looked at me as my dad’s name was called out. She gave me a smile as I realized what was happening and immediately began to “ugly face cry”. I’m pretty sure my mother was sobbing, too.

The baby’s middle name is Gregory, in honor of my father. We never expected that.

My friend spent a good deal of her adolescence and early adult years with my parents, who have always thought of her as a daughter. I feel so honored that she is showing her affection for my father in such a huge way. My dad would have been so tickled to have someone named after him.

Needless to say, after such an emotional weekend, I was a mess on my three hour drive home. It was a weekend full of strong memories of the incredible man who I was lucky enough to call “Dad”.

 

These two cant wait for their new bundle of love to arrive.

 

My friend and her daughter (my God-daughter).

 

Sunrise from the air

I’ve been a bit blue lately. This is probably because I haven’t been flying much at all this summer. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to get up in the air, it’s just that this summer has been so dog-gone hot!

In my defense, we have also been busy buying a house and moving for the past two months. If I’d had time to fly somewhere for lunch on a good day I may have hopped in the plane, but I really haven’t had anywhere to go or any real reason to use the plane.

I have planned to go flying several times over the past two months, but the motivation faded when I stepped outside into the sauna that has been this summer in Charleston. I thought I’d beat the heat and go fly around in the morning sometime, but I’m not a morning person. My job at a police department requires that we alternate day shift and night shift on a month-to-month basis, and this is my night shift month. Since I’m always most productive at the end of my day, morning is technically the end of my day this month. After considering this I had no excuse not to go for a sunrise flight after work. The weather was actually perfect this morning, as it is many mornings around here.

Hopefully, I’ll squeeze in a few more sunrise flights while I still have use of this airplane.

Live your dash!

 

 

The sunrise over the SC Lowcountry

The sunrise over the SC Lowcountry

 

Amsterdamage

Tagging along on one of my husband’s business trips, my mother, my son and I took full advantage of the super cool city of Amsterdam.

The first thing you absolutely must do when visiting Amsterdam is go on a canal tour. As touristy as it sounds, it is the best way to get a feel for the city, and it is also a relaxing way to enjoy the sights while recovering from a long flight if this is a first stop after crossing the Atlantic.

amsterdam 1

Seeing the city from the comfort of a canal tour boat is a relaxing way to get acquainted with the city when you’re jetlagged.

If you enjoy both art and history museums, the Rijksmuseum is a good bet for you. This beautiful museum has tons of pieces of art and history, but the building itself is enough to impress you even if you don’t care for museums. We also visited the Van Gogh museum, but I didn’t care for it as much as the Picasso museum in Barcelona or the Escher museum in the Hague, about a 30 minute train ride from Amsterdam.

There are lots of museums and other tourist attractions that people rave about, but I am more of a fan of experiencing the city than seeing those sights. This is why I most recommend a stop at Café Hoppe for a drink in one of Amsterdam’s oldest bars. Café Hoppe has been on the Spui since 1670 and still seems to be a popular spot with both locals and tourists, alike.

amsterdam 6

If there is one museum you visit while in Amsterdam, I recommend the Rijksmuseum.

We are fortunate enough to have a friend who lives in Amsterdam who is always willing to show us around when we are there. This was our 3rd visit to the city, and he once again graciously met us at Café Hoppe and gave a tour of the city. The tour he gave was exciting enough to please my 21yo son, and tame enough for my conservative mother to enjoy.

amsterdam 3

 

 

amsterdam 4

We can't go to Amsterdam without visiting Café Hoppe at least once.

We can’t go to Amsterdam without visiting Café Hoppe at least once.

 

I’m a sucker for street markets. Seriously, I seek them out in every town I visit. I love the combination of delicious food stand smells mixed with the excitement of possibly finding a great bargain. If you’re a people watcher you’ll also enjoy street markets. Amsterdam has a great street market called the Albert Cuyp Market. This  is the largest street market in the Netherlands, with 260 stalls selling everything from meats and fresh produce to clothes, toiletries, bags, electronics accessories and cheap souvenirs.

My son was on a hunt for a watch. There were several jewelry vendors with lots of beautiful watches to choose from. We found lots of bargains!

My son was on a hunt for a watch. There were several jewelry vendors with lots of beautiful watches to choose from. We found lots of bargains!

Amsterdam is a great place to begin a European vacation. Everyone I’ve encountered there speaks English and the Dutch are all such friendly people. If you’re on the fence about going to Europe because of the “fear of the unknown”, start with a few days in Amsterdam to warm up to it. You’ll be glad you did.

Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam Central Station

Jump! The net will appear.

Change is scary! It is so easy to stay inside your comfort zone and miss out on all kinds of exciting things that life has to offer.

In 2003 I threw all caution to the wind and with a shout to the heavens of “what the hell”, I packed up my belongings, quit my job and moved to a new city where I knew no one. This may have been the most courageous thing I’ve ever done. Braver than learning to fly, even.

Actually, this sounds way more adventurous than it actually was. To tell the truth, there was a series of events that led up to this leap. I hated my job, my house finally sold after 2 years on the market, my son was out of school for the summer, I had a golden retriever and a Jeep. On top of all that, my boyfriend of two years and I broke up as I was packing up to move out of my house after it sold. I was devastated, but also primed to jump out of the rut I felt I was in and into the life I knew I could have. I knew there would never again be a time in my life when so many cards were up in the air that screamed for a big life change. I packed up my things and drove down to Charleston without a clue about what would happen next, without knowing a soul, and without a job. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew this was a leap I was going to take and that the net would appear.

That net did appear, but not before I hit rock bottom.

I struggled through several temporary jobs before hitting that bottom. From the bottom, the only place to look is up.

There was one particularly cold night in February where I slept in my dark living room on the floor by the fireplace, crying myself to sleep because my power had been turned off. My son had gone to live with his dad in our hometown because I could no longer provide for him, so I was all alone, with just my dog, whom I could only feed because of a generous dog food donation from a friend. I couldn’t even call anyone for help because my phone had also been turned off.

I spent almost a full year in a terrible, dark and lonely place and I realized I was doing all of this to myself. Self pity is a terrible thing. I was blaming heartbreak, but self pity was the real issue. I did a lot of deep digging in my soul that first year down here and I learned more about myself than I had ever though possible. I had been struggling with life for a very long time because I was trying to live up to perceived expectations from family and society; I had never really allowed myself to just be me. After a year of soul searching with the help of a lot of alcohol, I began to get a glimpse of who I really am and I learned to trust in myself. I also remembered that part of the reason I moved to Charleston was to change my life, which also meant my career. I had been trying to find a full time “respectable” job, but I realized that what I really wanted was a break from all of that reality. I decided to wait tables for a while, which was one of the other best decisions I’ve ever made. That made for a few fun and carefree years of living for the moment and making some really great friends.

I have often said that this worst year of my life was also the best year of my life. Maybe it was because of the extreme growth I experienced, or maybe it was just because I was living at the beach, but that year will always be a very important era in my life.

In October of 2005, around the time I really felt I was getting my life back together, I met my now husband, Ben. I cherish every step I took on that broken road. I became a mother while I was really still a child. Since I missed out on some major mental growth opportunities because of skipping college and growing up way too fast, those times were very necessary for me to become the person I am today. The person I am today is very happy to have been ready for the relationship that bloomed so beautifully into a wonderful marriage.

I’ve been toying with some changes in my life for the past couple of years. Recently, I decided to make a list of big scary steps to get me closer to some goals I have set (yes, I’m being vague on purpose). Step one was to find and buy a home that will require less maintenance so I can travel with my husband without worrying about our home. We just closed on our first home together, a modest condominium, on July 20th! My next few steps have also been set into motion, and will be revealed in a month or two.  Stay tuned…

Take that leap. The net will appear, even if it looks a lot like regret in the beginning. Just trust it.

Live your dash…. Jump!

 

 

Flying Business Class on the 747

My husband and I recently took a vacation with my mother and my son. This was a very special trip, so we splurged and practically depleted his frequent flyer miles to get us all on business class on the upper deck of a 747. Let me tell you, it was everything I dreamed it would be. I think I could have slept on this flight if only I hadn’t been so excited!

We wanted to surprise Mom and the kid with the business class part, a secret we successfully kept. Climbing up that staircase to the Business Class section and then seeing our seats was a fun way to begin the trip, and seeing the look on my mother’s face was worth keeping the secret!

The trip included Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, Naples & Sorrento. Posts about our adventures in those cities will follow sometime soon.

 

747

I’ve never seen my mother more surprised!

 

747 3

You could see the stress of the previous week melt away.

 

747 4

The food in Business Class is so much better than in Coach.

 

747 2

Cheers to making great new memories!

 

Dessert in Business Class: I'll have one of everything, thank you!

Dessert in Business Class: I’ll have one of everything, thank you!

Winds of change

Leaving the island…

  

After living on Isle of Palms for almost 11 years, we have moved 1 mile across the Causeway to Mount Pleasant. While this may not seem like much of a move to most people, this was incredibly difficult for us, emotionally. We have grown accustomed to being able to walk to our favorite beach bars and to hearing the sound of the ocean from our front porch.

Another reason leaving the island hurts is that I still feel the presence of my recently deceased dog when I’m on the island. A part of me feels like I’m leaving her behind, silly as that sounds.

Moving to Mount Pleasant has it’s benefits, though. We could not have afforded to own a home on the island at this point in our lives, but we have bought our own home together in Mount Pleasant. And though it is only a modest condominium, it is all ours! The location is ideal, too. We are still within walking distance of many great bars and restaurants, we have a pool right across the parking lot, the complex has a gym, and we are only a 10 minute drive to our old stomping grounds.

So, while we grieve for the loss of our previous (spoiled) life, we are trying to keep one eye on the bright side. There may be some moaning and groaning coming from me in the meantime.

Here are a few photos of my precious island.

Kite-boarding is a popular sport among the super-fit adventurous folks.

  

We have had kayaks for about 8 years, but we’ve only put them in the water a handful of times. I regret that a bit now. So fun!

I will miss walking home from work on the beach Summer mornings as the sun rises. Dawn is a magical time on the beach.

Bucket List

I just found this unfinished blog in my drafts folder from a year and a half ago:

“What do you do when you’ve been told you have 8-12 months to live? If you are smart you live. Really, truly live. Dad has been pretty sad about the idea of not being around much longer. My heart breaks every time I recall him saying “I really regret that I won’t get to see Justin graduate college”. I’m sure there are lots of things he is sad he will miss that  remain unsaid. There are some things he has said he wishes to do “one more time” and I hope I can help make every one of them come true.

I went to a baseball game with Dad. I took him flying, though I don’t think that was really on his list. He hopes to make it to Panama City Beach to go fishing with my cousin, JW. It’s a long trip that would be even longer for him, but I really hope this can happen and I hope I can be there for it.

This may be the hardest year of my life, but I plan to make it the richest year of my life and make every second count when I’m with my father.”

*******************************************************************

Fast forward to today:

Did I follow through with my plan and make it the richest year of my life? I think so. I continued to work and spend my weekends off burning up the highway to spend time with him and tried to be there with him for every doctor appointment. When he went into Hospice care I took advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act to assist my mother as a caregiver. Being able to spend that last summer with him was a precious gift I will forever cherish.

We never did make our planned Panama City Beach fishing trip because the beginning of the end happened when that trip was supposed to happen. Planning that trip so far out may be my one regret, but we still made the best of our time together.

Time is precious. Hug your family. Spend time with them every chance you get, because you never know how many more visits you have left.

Live your dash.

A Sad Anniversary.

A year ago today I held my dad tight as he let go of this world.

That sentence is very heavy.

That morning, exactly one year ago, I sat at the breakfast table with my mother and my niece. We talked lightheartedly about the past and the future and listened to music on our iPhones. There was one popular song we played that can be “shagged” to (a South Carolina dance), so my mother and I showed my niece how to shag while listening to Kenny Chesney sing about “American Kids”. Right there in the kitchen we danced our hearts out. I’m sure my dad, who was in the other room, was very aware of our dancing and would have smiled if he had been able to smile in his comatose state.

Shortly after our little dance I had a moment alone with Dad. I played a few songs that expressed my feelings for him. One of them was “Daddy’s Hands” by Holly Dunn, and another song was “You Can Let Go” by Crystal Shawanda. That second song ripped my heart out to listen to the lyrics while playing the song in his ear, but it was such a beautiful song and so well suited to our situation at the time. I spent the day sitting by his side, knowing in my heart that it would be my last day with him. We even told the Hospice nurse that she didn’t need to come that day. My son was driving up from Charleston that afternoon. They say when someone is holding on long after they should have passed on that they are waiting for something. We had been telling him we would be ok and he can let go, but he kept holding on. It turned out that he was waiting for the arrival of my son, because it was only about two hours after Justin walked through the door that my dad took his final breath.

The borrowed time we shared has so far been the most precious and meaningful of my life, especially that last summer.