Well Hello There From LaLa-Retirement Month #10


Lots has happened since my last post in July. Here we are sitting squarely in April 2019 and retirement is interesting. We moved into the new house the weekend before Christmas…our sweet grand baby boy was born on December 3. Hank is “Grampy” and I am “LaLa.” Being a grandparent is the BEST THING EVER!!!! Mother went to her great reward on March 6. Brother Ned is, well, still Ned. His memory and mobility have greatly diminished of late and we had to move him over to a skilled nursing facility in October.

Now that things have settled down some, I find myself a bit at loose ends. There is plenty to do; however, I am having trouble remembering who I was before I was a school teacher, piano teacher, church musician, wife, mother, central office administrator, and principal. That’s 35 years of being in those roles and always having control of each situation.

I’m pretty certain that I am not SUPPOSED to be the person I was before…all of those roles shaped me into Me 2.0.  But figuring out what “sparks joy” for ME 2.0 is proving to be easier said than done.

I’ve set up FB and Instagram pages for Dwell Well and Dwelling Well Life respectively. These pages are my opposition move to all of the depressing and sensationalized craziness all over the place. In other words, nothing but positive and inspiring posts for me. You can follow if you feel so inclined. (Followers spark joy!) And I’ve put myself out there to help friends begin the declutter/minimize/organize process in their lives.  Only three takers so far, though. Bummer. I am really good at this declutter/minimize/organize stuff.

I know for certain that the following people/activities (in no particular order) make me smile (which is how I know they “spark joy.”)—- Hank. Our grandson. Our children. Yoga class. Bowman, our sweet dog. Our new church. Daily quiet time. Playing my piano. A good book. My book club. Decluttering. Minimizing. Organizing. Helping other people declutter, minimize, and organize. Giving advice. Lunching with friends. Entertaining friends and family in our home. Outings (not lunch related) with friends. Putting finishing touches on the interior of the house. Clemson football. Sitting on the dock at the river. Watching Home Town on HGTV.

And I am trying a few new ideas…just not feeling the “smile” on some of those yet. Looks like I’m back to blogging. Yay?





Relaxing in Nashville

Last week about this time I was speeding down the highway toward Music City.  I grabbed Lorelai in Greenville, after which we collected my old pal and college roommate, Sue, from the Asheville area. We dropped Lorelai at her hotel for a bachelorette party honoring her sweet college friend Amanda, then Sue and I headed over to our home base at The Hermitage. Hank sweetly (and with great relief I am reasonably certain) volunteered to stay back at the farm with Bowman to keep the home fires burning.

I’d been to Nashville several years ago to present at an educational conference, staying out at the Opryland Hotel.  It was lovely, but I wanted to be more in the center of things this time.  Sue and I had a spa afternoon, did some shopping, and just generally relaxed, although we did go out to the Grand Ole Opry one night (great story to follow) and out with the bachelorette party another night for dinner at Suzy Wong’s House of Yum. Apparently, Nashville has become THE place for bachelorette parties…they were everywhere and no less than three were at the House of Yum while we were there.

Cool story!!  As we were checking in, a group of adults were waiting along with a group of young ladies. Turns out it was a 21st birthday celebration weekend complete with both sets of grandparents. Sweetest thing ever to see! We struck up a conversation with the birthday girl’s mom while waiting for our rooms to be ready. When Daughter’s of the South start conversations with strangers (which happens a lot) it always begins with “where’re y’all from?”  We were both from South Carolina and as we dug a little deeper, it turns out that her sister-in-law was from the little village we lived in for 32 years before moving full-time to the farm last fall. I actually taught her in middle school!! Small world…but WAIT!  When she asked where we’d moved to….OH MY GOSH…our new community is where she was born and raised. What are the chances?  Really…WHAT are the chances? We chatted a few minutes longer about folks we both knew and then she graciously invited us to attend the Grand Old Opry with them that evening, as two of their guests had not been able to make the trip.

It was a lovely evening. Second row from the stage at the Grand Old Opry is a very fine place to sit.  Our experience was cool and unexpected…and it was so kind of them to share their tickets with us.IMG_3119

I was also able to have a beautiful two and a half hour lunch at Husk with one of my favorite EVER students, Kirby Jane Easler. She is a brilliant musician living her dream in Nashville and you can find out more about her and see several of of her many videos HERE.

After reversing my route, dropping Sue and Lorelai at there respective homes, and driving nine hours, I got home late Tuesday afternoon. It was a great trip and perfect kick-off for my new retired life!


Your Legacy

I am having a nice walk down memory lane going back through the old Life of a Southern Belle posts.  Came across this one, and as I have been doing a bit of digging on Ancestry.com this morning, it seemed appropriate:

SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2013

Back on Easter Sunday, Legare leaned over to me before church started and pointed out a memorial to a church member long gone on to glory. There are a number of such on the walls on both sides of the sanctuary. He remarked that he hoped to be remembered similarly…and I have to agree. I’d like to be remembered this way as well…

What say you?

Next Steps

I read a lot. There is a magazine app on my iPad where I can read 50+ magazines each month for $9.99.  That is a pretty sweet deal.  I have become an enthusiastic patron of our local county library system. Our move has put us squarely in a “food desert” but as far as the written word is concerned, life is good.


Busyness has been on my mind over the last few days. The article…one that I cannot remember where I read it…was about the “glorification of busy.” In a nutshell, that people these days seem to be in a constant contest about who has the most hectic life…i.e., the person who is the busiest wins some invisible impressive and coveted prize or badge of honor. And it goes beyond the physical acts of a running around like a chicken with your head cut off calendar…this point of pride also includes the multi-tasking crazy busy taxing of one’s mind. I’ve been in that crazy busy loop. Who among us has not? SERIOUSLY…if you have NOT ever been in a crazy busy loop please, PRETTY PLEASE, respond to let me know for YOU, my friend, are the one who deserves the prize. 

There are no prizes or badges of honor. Heck bang (as Mother would say), you are not likely to be shown even a smidgen of recognition. You have to have a love and passion for your work deep down in your heart. The love and passion are your badges of honor.

I am still pondering my next steps post-retirement from my 35 year career as an educator, and here is what I know in no particular order:

  1.  Completion of our new home.
  2.  Clemson football
  3.  Finding a new church home
  4.  Watching the cotton grow
  5.  Watching the tide go in and out
  6.  Buying baby boy things…because WE ARE HAVING A GRANDBABY!!

After December 3, or thereabouts, you can call me Lala.  (Because I am too young to be called Grandma!)


A Chicken Frying Failure

I started my old blog, Life of a Southern Belle, way back in March of 2008, as Lorelai was preparing to graduate from high school and Legare from college.  I’ve been back in the kitchen here lately trying new recipes and reviving some old ones. As I was preparing BBQ chicken tonight, I thought about this old post…A Chicken Frying Failure…from back in the day.  I am sad to say that it still rings true!

(From Life of a Southern Belle, July 2008)

We were reminiscing last night about some of my early culinary mishaps when Hank and I first got married. I still cannot fry “real” chicken…that is, chicken on the bone. Over the years I’ve learned to do pretty well with chicken tenders…soak them in Texas Pete, shake them up in self rising flour with some salt and pepper, fry them in the deep fryer until nice and golden brown. Yummmmmmmmy! They are one of Legare’s favorites.

I don’t like to think that I’ve ever been a disappointment to anyone, save a nice sweet lowcountry grandma…not my own, thank goodness. WAY back in the day when I was a fresh-faced newly married 21 year old first year high school music teacher, one of my students, a great big football playernamed Abe, overheard me lamenting to another teacher that I just could NOT fry chicken to save my life. On my first attempt, I dredged it in corn meal (a la fried fish) rather than flour, and bless Hank’s sweet heart, he tried to eat it, but it was scorched on the outside and raw in the middle. I’d seen the error of my ways regarding the corn meal, but dredging it flour didn’t produce any better result. The next time it was done in the middle and soggy on the outside.

It had never occured to Abe that a grown woman might not be able to fry chicken and this new information troubled him. He showed up the next morning (a Friday) with instructions from his grandmama written down in pencil on paper yanked out of a spiral notebook. His expectation, and hers as well, was thatI would practice over the weekend and report back on Monday morning. I was young and used to following instructions from my elders so I did just that. If we’d had a smoak alarm back then, which we didn’t, it would have gone off twice. When I messed it up on Saturday morning, I went back to the grocery store and started all over again on Sunday. It was sad…I wanted to cry…How was I going to report back to Abe and his grandma that I had failed?!

Abe was at my door before school started on Monday morning for a full report. He shook his head in disappointment as I spared not a single detail of my efforts…there was no denying that I was a Chicken Frying Failure. On Tuesday morning, there was a message in my box to call Abe’s grandma. She made me recount my process step by step and told me to try again. My report on Wednesday was no better. On Thursday afternoon, she showed up in the office with a tin plate of fried chicken (still to this day the best I’ve ever had) for Hank’s supper. She’d rallied the troops and another grandma was there with a macaroni pie…the school secretary brought broccoli casserole and the custodian’s wife sent a banana pudding. They were afraid that Hank was starving.
703337_10200271338565274_1036945873_oI eventually mastered the macaroni pie, broccoli casserole and banana pudding (see photographic evidence above), but I remain, to this day, a REAL Chicken Frying Failure. Thank goodness for chicken tenders.

Just In Time

IMG_3075Recalibration.  This is what retirement should be called…recalibration. It’s not bad. Just different. I wrote a blog post, made a pound cake, and shelled peas from our VERY OWN GARDEN on Sunday. I picked up groceries from Walmart on Monday and binge watched Hart of Dixie. (You’re just RIVETED, aren’t you….so much excitement?)

I got busy on Tuesday.  As you may or may not know, I had a lovely grand piano that Mother gave to me when we purchased our first home in 1983. The floor plan of the new house does not have a separate living room, which was my music room in both of our previous homes. We sold the grand and now that the new house is far enough along, I was able to verify what I believed would be the perfect place for an upright piano. Tuesday morning I rode down to Fox Music House and picked out my new piano and it is a beauty…satin ebony and plays like a dream. And I shelled peas.


On July 4, our friend Ted came over to eat and binge watch a few episodes of Downton Abby.  Then more Hart of Dixie while shelling peas after he headed home. And today…DAY 5…Legare and Robert stopped by on their way back to Raleigh from Charleston. I fixed a big mid-day dinner (featuring some of those peas I’ve been shelling) and we had a short, but lovely visit before they headed back out.

So to sum it all up…I have prepared (and eaten) a lot of food, shelled a big old mess of peas that just keep on appearing in the basket on the kitchen counter, spent a bunch of money, and watched too much television.

Truthfully though, I kind of enjoy shelling those peas. I have sweet memories of sitting on the porch at the river on summer afternoons with my grandmother shelling beans and peas. And I love having time to be back in the kitchen planning and cooking wonderful meals for friends and family to enjoy.  I’ve missed having the time/energy to do that these last few years. And getting the piano squared away is just one small part of the grand plan that is to curate a collection of things that Hank and I both love for our new home.  AND, if you are a Daughter of the South and have not ever watched Hart of Dixie, you can find it on Netflix. I declare, I KNOW most of the characters and bet that you might too. Heck, you might even see yourself in one or two of them…I know I do.

I think that retirement, and the general recalibration of life that comes with retirement, got here JUST in time.



The Retirement is Real


Today is July 1.  I am retired.

After 35 years of working as an educator, or piano teacher, or church organist, or choir director…OR sometimes all of the above at the SAME time…I am RETIRED!

It feels odd. Not bad. Just odd.

My husband and friends who have been retired awhile tell me that the oddness will pass.  I look forward to that. I didn’t work the last seven days of my contract. I had days that I could take and felt like I ought to get out of the way of the WONDERFUL person they hired as my replacement. She going to be a terrific principal!

So…how long before I stop waking up in the middle of the night thinking about what I have to do at work the next day?

Curate a Wonderful Life

Curate is a popular word these days.  Until a few years ago, I really only ever heard it used in regard to a curated collection in a museum or maybe a haute couture clothing line. But then again, I live in a bubble.  Perhaps you’ve been curating this, that, and the other for years. One thing I know from doing five minutes of googling is that museum curators get REALLY irritated when plain old people like yours truly dumb-down the word to include what we put on our Pinterest boards.

Last year when we began to declutter/minimize our belongings, the word curate popped up in a lot of books and articles and blogs and podcasts that I enjoyed.

At some point about this time last year I wrote this question in my journal: “How does one curate a wonderful life?”  On the following page of the journal I wrote out the numbers 1 through 240.  That would be the number of days I had (have) to work from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.  Apparently, I intended to mark off the days as they passed, which I did not. I don’t see the word “curate” again in my journal, probably because to curate a wonderful life is SOME kind of tall order, but I am going to start a list right now to try to define what a wonderful life even MEANS to me. I’ll share it with you sometime soon. Do you know what it means to you?

Still, I just like to say “curate” and by golly, I am going to CURATE something.  We have begun the building process of our new home in a very intentional way. When we clean out all of the boxes in our storage units…yes, more than one storage unit…we are NOT bringing in the six boxes of crystal doodads left to us by Aunt Bubbles…YES, I did say that we started to declutter/minimize last year, I did NOT say that we finished. We have cleaned out the homes of four people in the last ten years. There are a lot of doodads.

We are downsizing. We want our home to feel warm and welcoming. We want to feed people. We want family and friends to visit our home and leave feeling renewed and relaxed and loved. We want to make smart decisions throughout the process. We are not going to put a thing in this house that we don’t both really like a whole lot. Thus, I hereby declare that I am, with the wisdom of an expert, the marvelous Missy LeCroy Orr from LeCroy Interiors in Greenville, going to CURATE our new home.

Curate: Definition by Daughter of the South (because this is my blog and I can do what I want): To organize, plan, and collect for the purposes of creating a warm, welcoming and loving environment/climate in our new home.

Off we go!

Image above borrowed from sophisticateddorkiness.com

Baking Bread

Baking bread. You can’t rush it. Hours after the bread is done, the house still smells so lovely. Sharing a loaf or two with friends and family seems to make the friends/family happy. There is a certain tranquility in baking bread. I don’t have to do it. Nobody expects me to do it. Even if the loaves are not picture perfect, the bread is SO delicious. Pretty simple. I don’t see a downside…except that I have eaten three pieces of toast and the most delicious grilled-cheese EVER since yesterday afternoon. But isn’t it all about the tranquility?  I’m going to go with that.

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I Don’t Want To Mislead You

I am going back through the book…Present Over Perfect ( Shauna Niequist) one chapter at a time and I am marking it up as I go. It seems that retirement may be “essentially God’s grace prying my little fingers off of of that” (MY), “identity, digit by digit.”  And yes, I know I probably messed up that punctuation.

The following passage hits the nail on the head. “I’ve always given my best energy to things outside myself, believing that I’d be fine, that I was a workhorse, that I didn’t need special treatment or babying or, heaven help me, self-care. Self-care was for the fragile, the special, the dainty.  I was a linebacker, a utility player, a worker bee.  I ate on the run…worshiped at the alter of my to-do list, ignored the crying out of my body and soul like they were nothing more than the buzz of pesky-mosquitos.  Now I know that in the same way I’ve always believed God’s Spirit dwells deeply in this world, it also dwells deeply in me. I’ve known that, cognitively, but my life spoke otherwise. Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul.

Are you saying “WOW…Just WOW!”  ??

I do not want to mislead you.  I can sit on the sofa and watch Netflix with the best. A good massage or mani-pedi?  Why yes…thank you so very much.  But the mind never rests. The to-do list is on a loop in the background. Always. Shoot, this blog post has been running around in my brain since yesterday afternoon.

A couple of years ago in our old house, Hank fixed me up a “tranquility room” upstairs. It was a soothing shade of gray, with a beautiful rug and a big comfy chair. The pictures on the walls were lovely and soothing and a double window looked out over the back yard. There was plenty of room for me to begin learning yoga. The roomed smelled lovely all the time. It was very hygge before I knew what hygge was.

In that comfy chair overlooking the backyard, I made some crazy impressive lists in the pretty notebook I ordered after researching pretty notebooks for a couple of weeks. That was before I researched all things calligraphy and took a calligraphy class.  Calligraphy is hard.


See what I did there?  The struggle is real.