Charleston

CHS

“Come quickly, have found heaven.” – Artist Alfred Hutty’s wire message to his wife after his first visit to Charleston. 

I’m headed to Charleston for the weekend with friends to celebrate my friend Erin’s upcoming wedding. Plans include multiple brunches, fresh seafood, champagne toasts, an afternoon at the spa, and a reservation for bottle service at a club that actually starts after my bedtime. (Related: What happens if you fall asleep in a nightclub?)

Just kidding. Kind of. I’m actually just really excited for a weekend with friends in one of my favorite cities. Happy Friday, folks!

Love Stories

81cc544acca1a0813939ad86620e2514

When I was growing up, every Valentines Day my mom would leave heart-shaped boxes of Dove chocolates on the kitchen table for my brother and I to find when we came down for breakfast.

She would instruct us not to eat it all at once. I would immediately eat it all at once.

My brother, who has more self-control than most monks, would put his heart-shaped box on the kitchen counter and go about his day like a normal human who hadn’t ingested enough sugar for a month. And then my mom would take his box and hide it—from me.

When I was 15 and we moved out of the house I grew up in, I remember finding boxes of chocolate hidden around the kitchen from years past. My mom and brother had forgotten about them and their excellent hiding skills had prevented me from finding them, despite what I’m certain was some serious searching.

I’ve had years with Valentines and years without. And, honestly, my years without have always been better than my years with—which, I suppose makes sense as all those Valentines have come and gone. But I think that it’s also because the years without have been their own love stories in a way.

Last February 14th I sat around a big table filled with friends, cheese, and chocolate, and drank too much wine while my little dog sat in my lap and we all laughed at our funny flawed dating lives. This year I have guaranteed happiness because I’m spending my evening with friends watching Dave Chappelle, and then going home to a large dog who has taken to sleeping next to me while snoring absurdly loudly.

These are my kind of love stories. Not the buy-me-red-roses and take-me-to-dinner kind. But rather the mom who always had chocolate boxes, the friends who gather around my table, and the funny dog who likes to rests her snout on my shoulder.

Weekend Adventures

IMG_1484

It’s really easy for weekends to slip into a routine that’s errands, laundry, yard work, cleaning, and—maybe if you’re really lucky—an extra dinner out or a longer dog walk or two.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes these kinds of weekends are so necessary, and so good for you. Sometimes I need a few hours on my couch as much as I need oxygen. But to me, getting around to Sunday night and thinking “well, at least I finally dropped off that dry cleaning,” is not a satisfying way to live.

So, I’m making a point of planning at least one unusual thing to do each weekend that I’m in town—a weekend adventure. It could be a hike, a visit to a museum, or checking out a new local spot. Maybe it’s a drive to a vineyard or to one of the area’s more charming suburbs.

This weekend it was an Argentinian wine dinner with friends at Rural Hill, a beautiful historic farm just north of Charlotte. It was a brisk, but bright Saturday afternoon and we stood outside in the cold sun, eating warm slices of steak straight from Dan the Pig Man‘s fragrant grill, while we drank big glasses of deep red Argentinian Malbec.

I ran errands, trimmed bushes, and did laundry this weekend too. But Saturday afternoon’s adventure was my favorite part.

On Grieving and Healing

IMG_6934

One month ago today my dog, Rosie, passed away. It’s been the darkest, saddest month of my life. I’ve learned lessons about grief and mourning that I would have been perfectly content to never learn. But I’ve also learned a lot about healing.

A few days before Rosie died, when I was panicking that she would die, I Googled “how to get over dog dying.” Because her impending death felt like a scary wave that was about to crash on me and I thought that maybe somewhere out there was a life boat I could grasp onto before I drowned.

I didn’t find much help. I know now that you “get over” a dog dying the same way you work through any major loss—slowly and painfully and often haphazardly. But I’m learning about some things that are working. So, in case someone else is searching one day, and they come across my little corner of the internet, here’s what I’ve found—for wading through any kind of loss.

(1) Make Good Friends: I’m talking about Friends with a capital F. Those core people who know you. These were the people who crawled into my bed with me when I couldn’t get out of it. The ones who showed up on my doorstep with food and hugs. The ones who sat on my floor and cried with me. I will never forget the kindness of these people.

(2) Find a Grief Counselor: I got really lucky. My mom knew someone who knew someone and the afternoon after Rosie died, I went to her office. I’m a planner and she has repeatedly given me tasks and plans and ways to work through my grief. Possibly more importantly though, she’s created a safe space for it. I can put on a happy and hardworking face 23 hours a day, and then cry on her couch for the 24th. That’s important.

(3) Create a Box: This was a tip from my counselor. She said to find a beautiful box and to fill it with Rosie’s things. I put her harness and a few toys and some photos in there—things that hurt to see around the house, but I couldn’t imagine getting rid of. For now, I keep it on a shelf where I can see it every day.

(4) Do Things For Them: After Rosie died I realized how much taking care of her was part of who I was. Being Rosie’s Mom felt as intrinsic to my character as being Sarah. I have found some solace in continuing to do things for her. I designed and ordered her a personalized headstone. I’ve commissioned a small portrait of her. I’ve started to work on creating a photo memory book of her. This feeling will fade, but for now it feels good to continue to do things for Rosie.

(5) Share Stories: Some of the brightest moments of the last month have been laughing about funny Rosie stories with friends and family. People feel hesitant to bring her up around me—they don’t want to upset me. But a grieving person is always thinking about their loss. You’re not bringing up something that isn’t already on their mind. I’ve always loved to talk about her—her being gone doesn’t change that.

(6) Have Faith: I can’t imagine going through the loss of a loved one and not believing in heaven and a loving God. Not everyone shares this belief, but it has been a crucial part of my healing. I know that Rosie is in a place more wonderful than I can imagine and I know that our separation is only temporary.

(7) Take Care of Yourself: Do things that feel good. Warm baths. Sleeping in. Long walks. Comfort food. Massages. My counselor suggested thinking about these things along the lines of the five senses. Buy candles that are calming scents. Picture places that make you feel happy. Eat foods that taste good. Physical stuff really does translate to emotional stuff.

(8) Distract Yourself: I’ve read 12 books since January 1. Even Netflix isn’t immersive enough to pull my mind away from her, but a good novel will do it.

(9) You Do You: My only anger this month came when someone said to me “You need to move past this.” He now regrets his choice to say that because I didn’t hear it as advice to me—I heard it as an insult to Rosie’s memory. And I responded with all the defensiveness you’d expect. Don’t let anyone minimize your grief. Whether your loss is a person, a pet, a relationship, a dream—it’s your loss. You grieve in whatever way feels necessary to you.

(10) Take Your Time: There are no deadlines. Grief is messy and confusing. Working through it is more circular than linear. My pest control guy was at my house the other day and said, “Where’s the little barky dog?” I told him she’d passed away. He said, “I’m sorry. My son still sometimes cries about his little dog who died a year ago.” I’m sure I’ll still be sometimes crying about Rosie next year and the year after that. But I’ve given myself permission to do that. Give yourself permission to take as long as you need to be ok.

Seven Spots for Great Gifts

When Charlotte Today asked me to come talk about top local gift shops for their Black Friday episode, I jumped at the chance. This city has the best local shops owned by the coolest people. I’m sure I left a few great ones off my list (TV segment time limits are hard, y’all), but I’m listing the ones I talked about here (because inevitably a few of you guys always email me asking for these lists—thanks for watching!):

Savory Spice Shop: Stocking stuffers for the foodie (or cocktail maker or hot chocolate lover).

Paper Skyscraper: From gift wrap and stationery to candles and books, this shop has the most well curated gift selection in town.

Earl’s Grocery: Amazing host/hostess gift baskets featuring cool artisanal items and playful touches like dog treats.

Moxie Mercantile: My favorite. Just opened a second shop in Davidson. Features really cool handmade jewelry and candles, and the most fun barware.

Green With Envy: 4,000 square feet of gifts including local art, gardening stuff, clothing, kids stuff, and more amazing candles.

Girl Tribe: Girly as its name suggests and Charlotte-centric. Check out their website’s Gift Guide section for ideas for the holidays.

7th Street Market: A perfect one-stop-shop that includes Orrman’s for cheese and food gifts, Assorted Table for wine, and CLT Find for fun Charlotte gifts.