Thursday, December 4, 2014

Now Hiring

The correct response when someone says, “I need to lose 30 pounds,” is:

“What? You don’t have 30 pounds to lose!” (my BFFs Tami and Jodie).

Not, “How are you gonna do that?” or, “By when?” or, “Oh, that’s totally doable,” (the trainer).

That’s right, I hired a personal trainer.

This is a big move for me because I’ve been an athlete my whole life. Since leaving competitive sports in 1997, I have often trained with teams, groups, or friends. I swam with the Team Greenville Masters when we lived in the Upstate. I did spin class at the Y, ran with a Couch-to-5K group, finished a 10K and a half marathon.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Lately I’ve noticed our lunch-time servers in various corporate restaurants are older. They look to be about 50 or higher. Yesterday’s Red Robin waitress was certainly a grandmother.

I’m sure there are employment trends tracked on sites like and LinkedIn to suggest that mid-career workers are more likely to have been laid off in the financial crisis in 2008. Many were probably unable to take early retirement and therefore found alternative employment.

Mid-career workers are the ones whose tenure and experience make them expensive. But the ranks narrow at the top of the company. Ambition is what would keep them in the organization, the desire to achieve leadership heights. And the willingness to put in whatever hours, travel, and sacrifice necessary to achieve those heights.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

No Longer Virgin

Two weeks ago I ran a 13.1 mile race delightfully called a Diva Half Marathon. It was not my first time. My first half was in Greenville, SC in 2011.

After having Hollie in 2008, I went back to running in an attempt to lose the baby weight. When the first 30 pounds came off but nothing else did, I thought adding mileage was the way to shed more weight.

What’s amazing to me is not that I was able to log the training hours or that I completed the race, but that the motivation for taking on such a thing was so ridiculously naïve.

Running to lose weight will not take you 13.1 miles.

There must be some other motivation. Some other voice in your head daring you to see if you can actually achieve such a thing. The miles are just too long and the effort just too hard to rely on the calorie burn as motivation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Raising a Fighter

Hollie’s a picky eater. She’s got the foods she likes and she sticks with them. She’s an only child. She likes her alone time. She’s also an independent child. She doesn’t like being bossed around by me and Charlie.

More than once on vacation we found ourselves in a standoff with Hollie.

Over going to play golf. She didn’t want to. We did.

Over leaving the wave pool at the water park. She didn’t want to. We did.

Over going out for dinner. She didn’t want to. We did.

Over eating what she’d ordered. She refused.

Over leaving the Hilton Resort Orlando after checkout on Thursday. We had to.

We fight over brushing her hair.

We fight over brushing her teeth.

These days it seems like we fight about pretty much everything. Which is a good thing. It means she trusts us enough to state her desires with some confidence they’ll be met.

It means she has specific desires and is learning how to rationally explain those desires. 

I ask questions to get her to elaborate on her logic. I sometimes let her win.

Being willing to fight means she’s assertive enough to get what she wants. It means she won't be bullied, go along with the crowd, or believe her wants don’t matter.

Then, last week, I read this blog post about letting a little girl say “no.” And I did what I think the blogger wanted me to do, I really thought about it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Charlie turned 40 this Summer

By the time I met him, Charlie had the confidence that comes from knowing you’re somebody worth knowing. He says I was a diamond in the rough but maybe I just hadn’t acquired that confidence yet. 

He was 22 to my 19 and he was not my usual post-grunge artist-type boyfriend. He was always a clean cut, tattoo-free, Southern boy who said “ma’am” and “sir” and knew which color orange was the right color orange.

After taking our private jet flight with DTC
On his 30th birthday, I threw Charlie a surprise party. Many of the people who read this will remember it, they were there.

He had taken a job with Discount Tire and was a full nine months in and dedicated to the company and the work. It was a Saturday afternoon and I’d asked his boss to let him leave early. But Charlie sent his senior home instead, said the man had kids to get to and all he had was a bar full of drunks.

We laid a long piece of butcher paper on a table and wrote, “In my next 30 years,” across it. Everyone signed with the predictions about what those next 30 years would bring.

It’s been ten years since then. 

We’re a third of the way toward those goals we had when Charlie turned 30.

Some of them, our home, our daughter, his career with Discount Tire, have come true. Others, my PhD, my self-employment, our country club membership, were unnamed, unimagined 10 years ago.

So much has happened and so much has remained the same. 

Charlie with the Bretts at Wicker's wedding
He’s still my best friend. The one I want to share everything with the minute it happens.

We still have very different hobbies. He’s dedicated to TigerNet and all things Clemson. I like to read novels and write short stories.

He likes to watch TV, any stories they broadcast are good enough for him, especially if it’s the military, history, or National Geographic channels.

I like to run. Three miles, five, seven when I can. I like spin class and swimming.

He likes naps. He’s been known to pull a hat trick (three naps in one day).

We have things we like to do together, too.
With Hollie at the Orange & White game 2014

We sneak mini bottles of wine into the movie theater to see blockbusters like Spiderman and Oscar nods like American Hustle.

We play golf on Sundays, teeing off before the faithful can read the epistle and three beers in before the congregation says the last Amen.

We like a really good meal with a bottle of wine, appetizers, expensive entrees, and dessert.

We debate the uselessness of congress and the idiocy of legislating morality.

We love our friends and cherish our families. We cherish one another.

This summer we’ve been separated more than we’d like.

There was an eight week stretch where I was gone every other week. 

And we knew, before it happened, that it would be tough. 

But we did what we always do: we talked through it. 

Every minute of it.

What works. What doesn’t. What we can live with. What must change.

Hawaii 2013 Mood-Improved

He’s forty now and he’s the manager of a store where people depend on him. At home we depend on him. And he’s dependable.

He’s forty now and he’s father to a daughter with an independent spirit and husband to a Lean In career woman. And he’s good at giving us a base for jumping off. 

He’s also a soft place to land.

He’s forty now and we’ve grown up together, Charlie and me. When I chose this partner for my life I wasn’t sure what that life would look like. But I’m grateful he’s there to witness it, to influence it, to shape it and be part of it.

Happy birthday, Chuck. On your 60th birthday we’ll roll out butcher paper and write, “Remember When…”

Remember when 30 seemed so old?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mom to one, just one, my one

I’m a pretty good mom but I’m not good with other people’s kids.

I don’t know those children as well as I know mine, haven’t grown used to their voices, their questions, or their habits. Perhaps I might. Were I around them a lot, I might.

Our friend Torie, Hollie’s preschool teacher, Torie’s good at other people’s children.

But me, I kinda suck at them. Here are a few reasons why (cuz bloggers love lists):

1. I don’t take their injuries seriously enough.

My friend Kevin brought his kids to the park for a playdate with us and while he’d taken the eldest to the bathroom, the middle fell and busted his face on a step.

Bless his heart, that kid wailed.

“Oh my,” I said, “let’s go get your dad.”

I didn’t know how to hug him or help him or comfort him or even staunch the bleeding cuz, wow, that sure does look awful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What the hell happened to May?

So I knew it had been a while since I’d posted here. I’ve done some posts on GenX Stories. I participated in Submit-O-Rama May, so I had to update the progress there.

I have also been on the Northeast Area Update on the Chamber blog, though I have a great ghostwriter this summer, my cousin Preston.

But when I came over here just now to check on Clemson Road, I saw I’ve been gone since April.


Yup. Sorry, dear readers, but Life on Clemson Road has not stood still while I was away. In fact, it picked up momentum and all these things happened:

Friday, April 25, 2014

What the Will to Lead Looks Like

On Wednesday, I met Governor Haley.  She looked me straight in the eye, shook my hand firmly, greeted each of the panelists to whom I had been speaking, and took a question I had prepared for her.

“We were just about to share the best advice we’ve ever received,” I said. “Would you like to offer some?”
Governor Nikki Haley stops by Lean In Columbia
She smiled and there was a slight pause as she gathered her thoughts during which others in the room chuckled awkwardly that I’d put her on the spot.

This couldn’t possibly be the hardest thing anyone has ever asked her.

She said, “I use a 24-hour rule.” Whenever there is a decision to be made, she explained, she gives herself 24 hours to ensure it’s the right one.

“We have talked before about emotion being one of the challenges to women leaders,” I said, indicating the group, my Lean In circle, about forty of whom were in the room.

“But it’s also what makes us great,” she said. “We’re passionate.”

Our Lean In circle is gaining traction.

My co-founders and I bonded over Sheryl Sandberg’s book and we’ve been taking to the stage in Columbia to publicly encourage dialogue about issues facing women in business.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Celebrating Wordsmith Studio: Becoming a Real Writer

Before Wordsmith Studio, I wasn’t a Real Writer. I didn’t actually write. Not really. I played around some. Had a couple of novels in the deepest, most hidden files of my computer.

But in February 2012, I learned we were moving from the Upstate of South Carolina to Clemson Road. I would have to leave my real job behind.

I wanted to be a writer.

So I started this blog and I started looking around for advice, avenues, and allies. The path to real writerhood.

I found Writer’s Digest and Robert Lee “My Name is Not Bob” Brewer. In April 2012, he hosted a writers’ Platform Building Challenge on his blog. In the challenge, he had daily social media tasks. Things like read a blog and leave a comment. Open a Twitter account. Get a Facebook page.

Through comments of all the other participants, I learned there were dozens of people trying to do what I was trying to do: trying to tell other people that they were Writers.

Before Wordsmith Studio, I was a “Shhhhh…writer.”

Whispered as if unwilling to admit it.

Though my entire life I’ve felt called to storytelling, prose, composition and revision, I had yet to admit that passion to anyone.

Well, not since undergrad (1999) when it was made clear that being a writer was Just Too Hard and would never make me any money. I was encouraged to want money.

And not since my brief stint as a sportswriter (2000) when it was made clear that being a writer meant following around athletes who were Actually Accomplishing Something while I just took notes.

In 2012, I was in the middle of my dissertation research. I was writing the biggest, most important manuscript of my life. But I called myself Doctoral Researcher.

I was teaching English classes and I called myself English Professor.

I was freelancing, writing anything anyone would pay me for and I called myself an independent contractor.

I was blogging and I called myself a Job Seeker.

Then Wordsmith Studio. Born out of the platform challenge, Wordsmith Studio was the enterprising idea of early adopters who wanted to take our collaborative group and make something out of it. Give it a domicile of its own, a website, a Facebook group, a Facebook page, a Twitter account.

Monday, March 31, 2014

What You’ll Miss

MaMa sends Hollie mail every week.

It’s a kind of devotion that I admire. I used to write to my Nana sporadically. I respond to my cousin’s letters almost immediately. But they’re sporadic, too.

I have a friend who has never failed to send a card for appropriate holidays. Her mom sends them, too. They arrive within days of one another.

I am not that organized.

So my mom’s weekly ritual of filling out the note and folding it into the envelope and dropping it into the mail box is one that demonstrates her devotion to my daughter. And we’re so blessed by that devotion.

As we age, the rituals of our lives together fade.

We used to swim on the summer league team and dad would make us milkshakes before meets.

We used to open one gift every Christmas Eve, it was always new pajamas and always from my Dad’s mom (though we learned later my mom had bought them, wrapped them, and signed Nell’s name).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We Might Be Red Giants

There are a lot of reasons people stay in their own small orbits.

Maybe it’s safer there, surrounded only by objects you know, pulled by the familiar gravity of your own life.
Photo courtesy of NASA
Maybe there’s no opportunity to travel. Maybe location or position or conditions keep you grounded.

Nana lived in South Carolina almost her entire life. Granted, it was a much bigger world back then. Before interstates, traveling city-to-city could take days and state-to-state longer than that. International travel was more than unlikely, it was almost unheard of.

Now the world seems smaller. Now the 22 hour flight to Australia sounds painful but do-able. 

When I was in the Philippines, twelve hours ahead on the clock, Charlie called me “Future Girl.”

Even easier is connecting over the internet, where we can feel like we’ve been transported. We can experience culture, language, and perspectives from people who seem far removed from us.

We could feel even more distant. The Far East. Down Under. Across the pond. The Left Coast. Another hemisphere. Another continent. Unknown worlds of wonder and worry.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thank You Notes to My Constellation

Taking a cue from Jimmy Fallon, I’d like for this week’s post, just a few days after commencement, to be my Thank You Notes.

Thank You
Charlie, for putting up with the days I was reading and the days I was writing and all the boring conversations I made you listen to that involved my dissertation. But mostly thank you for believing in me and for being the person I high-fived when I heard those all-too-important words in August.

Thank You
Hollie Russ, for slowing down the dissertation process and forcing me to live in the moment – which is where Nana always said I should try harder to be. I know this journey started before you got here, but I hope you’ll carry with you forever the memories of its conclusion.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

The snow and ice pounded my hotel window last night. What looks like a winter wonderland actually sounds like an aggressive shudder of cold and misery.

I’m in Maine and this is a Nor’easter, the most violent of the storms in the final throes of winter.

It’s not hard to imagine the depth of desperation a storm such as this could dig. Isolated, stranded, freezing, scared.

But the people here go on about life cheerfully and diligently. They warn us to be careful on the ice and cautious on the roads. They don’t suggest we’ll never leave the hotel, our flights will be canceled, we’ll need an emergency escape plan.

Life here has learned to adapt to the weather. They say spring finally comes in May.  I tell them it was 70 degrees in Columbia yesterday. They just smile.

The storm puts me in mind of home.

My most creative work allows me to stay at home in my jammies, meet the school bus at 3, have dinner made and chores done.

But my most lucrative work requires travel.

This week Charlie and Hollie have had to go about their routine without me to piece their lives together. Without me to fill in the gaps.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

So You Wrote a Novel? What's it about?

When I met Brian, I was in pretty bad shape. We’d just moved across the country, I had no friends, and I had a crush on Christian Slater from Gleaming the Cube.

So I wrote about Brian Listo.

He was a skater and he had a half pipe in a cave on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean, hidden like the canopy bed in Lost Boys.  He had a team, The Crew, and they competed at Ratwall, which was a half-pipe in the sewer system of an undeveloped part of town.

I read Thrasher magazine and wrote about how to skate those half-pipe ramps. I even described hand plants and front-side-ollies.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Time Well Spent

I have started doing the thing my mom always did that I swore I would never do.

It’s frustrating mostly because I know how annoying it is. But it’s also frustrating because I don’t know...

Today is mom’s birthday and it’s been a really tough year and I feel like we’re closer than we ever have been. Part of that is the adoration my daughter has for her. Hollie just worships her. It’s funny how we see one another differently when we look through...

I remember loving my Nana so much that sometimes I felt like she’d been put on this planet just for me. So I watch Hollie love my mom that way and I feel the shared blessing that love is for all of us.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Mom's Lesson to her Unbrushed Princess

We don’t brush Hollie’s hair on Sundays. Well, not if we can help it.

Every weekday morning after she’s prodded from bed, stuffed into clothing, and dragged into the hallway, Hollie is propped up at the bathroom sink for a teeth scrub and a hair styling.

She hates this.

“I’m sooooooo tired!” she wails.

“You’re hurting me!” she grouses.

“Oowww! MOOOOOM!”

There are no witnesses to this nonsense except me and someday these mornings will be long gone and I’ll get nostalgic thinking of them. But as they’re happening, I feel like Eleanor Bear in Brave.

“Och, you’re acting like a child!”

Of course she is.

I like to let her be one as much as I can. I like to let her be petulant and reluctant and pouty and emotional as much as I can.

There will come a time when she must control these emotions. When she must conceal her frustration, her annoyance, her anger. 

There will come a time when she will be so busy being polite that she’ll forget to be herself.

She may one day catch herself in that moment and think, “How have I become the silly woman who smiles and nods while I’m screaming inside?”

It’s taken me a long time to define the boundaries between being myself and being someone others find acceptable. For years I lived under the mantra of “Be Yourself,” and believed that in all things, myself was good enough.

Then someone told me it wasn’t.

And I believed that person.

I know there will come a day when Hollie thinks being herself isn’t enough. I hope she’ll ask me about it. I hope she’ll say, “Mom, what should I do?”

So that I can say, “You’re more than enough. You’re amazing. You’re brilliant. You’re lovely. If other people don’t like you for who you are, that’s their own problem.”

Because, really, the very best lesson I can teach her is to have the grit to persevere. She shouldn’t kneel before adversity and hope to be blessed by others’ power. She should stand tall, take aim, and loose another arrow. 

Aye, keep shooting until the Self-Doubt and Insecurity are vanquished. 

On Sundays, she gets just a little taste of that. She gets to be a ragamuffin: tangled, tousled, knotty, and free. She gets to be herself in all her untamed glory.

It’s as much a break for her as it is for me. One day a week I don’t have to hold her down and rip the brush through the knots. One day a week where I have to forget about what others might think of the ragamuffin we’ve brought to Applebees or to Publix.

One day a week when I have to remind myself that it’s no one else’s damn business why she looks like a disaster.

Fuck them.

One day a week that I get to remember when I got my tattoos, when I pierced my tongue, when I started cussing in front of grown-ups and stopped pretending to have a faith I don’t.

I know she’s a child. I know it’s my job to teach her how to behave around others. I also know that she’s learning that. Really. 

I get manners. I get polite company. I get that she needs to be able to move among society and that people’s opinions of her will largely impact how successfully she is able to do that.

This un-brushed hair thing is a phase, like wearing two different shoes was. She’s outgrown that and she’ll outgrow this. But I let her wear a boot and a sandal. A flip flop and a sneaker. A sparkly red shoe and a sparkly black shoe because those small freedoms built her confidence.

She’ll match her clothing someday.

She’ll brush her hair.

She’s a child now but she will not always be.

If I have any say in it, though, she’ll always be original, confident, and willing to be herself even when others disapprove.

Just so long as she does not place her weapons on the table.

Angel Kisses and Overwhelming Gratitude

What I usually tell people about Carol Staubach is that she failed statistics in college and she was the smartest woman I’ve ever known. Wh...