Monday, December 17, 2007

My Husband the Candidate

Yep, you heard right. Joe is vying to make me the first lady of Bluffton. This morning he officially filed to run for Bluffton Town Council.

Joe just got his blog (Yes! Joe has a blog.) up today. Check it out for all the details -

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Now, you've gone and pissed me off ...

Why are people late?

Always late. On purpose late.

I understand getting stuck in traffic late, a last minute emergency late, wearing two different shoes and having to go back home to change late.

But to show up late um, just to be late. I don't get it.

(Note: If you tell me that you will be late, we have no problem.)

When my students are late I try to ignore their disruption, I flash them the evil eye and then at the end of class remind everyone that my pet peeve is late arrivals. This usually results in said late student writing an apology on their thought card (submitted each class as a way to communicate with me) and sliding it to the bottom of the pile as they skulk out of the room. Mission accomplished.

But in theory, I can do that with my students.

The question is how do you broach this subject with friends?

I've come up with a few options:

1. Force them to stand on the porch peering in the windows to see all of the fun that they are missing. (the rest of us will point and laugh)

2. Make them clean up when the party ends - dirty dishes, floors, the whole package - whilst I lay on the couch eating bon bons.

3. Put all of the empty beer and wine bottles in their car on a warm day and let them bake in the South Carolina sun.

4. Pull them from the invite list.

My list of tortures goes on, but it is just that - a list. (I talk a big game)

To all friends reading this blog who are coincidentally often late - I am of course not writing about you.

And, to "Margarita Gill" - who I know is reading -- thank goodness you and "Wyoming" showed up on time last night!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On a Serious Note...

It isn't all fun and games, although I like to pretend that it is.

And, it is not everyday that one is featured in the newspaper.

This morning I woke up to read the story of my life. Island Packet writer Maureen Simpson captured the essence of our struggle and deserves kudos for telling the story just like it is.

The Realities of Infertility
For couples who can't conceive on their own,
the road to pregnancy can be hard to travel

Melissa Schoenstra said some women know, even as children, they want to be mothers. She was one of them. So when she was told she would not be able to get pregnant due to a variety of complications, the news didn't just shatter her dreams. It broke her spirit.

"I had planned my whole life around having kids," Schoenstra, 37, said. "I even got a teaching degree because I wanted to be around kids and have a work schedule that allowed me to be a mom. It was hard."

Though her desire to start a family was difficult to push aside, Schoenstra said she and her husband, Tom, still got married under the assumption they would not be having any children. But after a couple of years, news of hope for couples struggling with infertility started popping up more and more in the media. And while she and her husband both took notice, he was the first to suggest checking out their options.

At the time, the couple was living in Lexington, Ky., and started their journey toward potential parenthood at the Kentucky Center for Reproductive Medicine. They moved to Bluffton three years ago.

"We did everything under the sun," Schoenstra said of the long, emotional and expensive process. Though they began with the medical options covered by their health insurance -- fertility drugs and artificial insemination -- the couple eventually turned to in vitro fertilization.

The procedure, called IVF, involves surgically removing numerous eggs from the ovary and mixing them with sperm in a petri dish. Some of the eggs that are fertilized and grow into embryos are implanted into the womb. One cycle of IVF can cost $12,000 or more and often is not covered by health plans. To pay, the Schoenstras refinanced their home.

IVF comes with about a 50-50 chance of success that typically declines as the age of the patient increases. Schoenstra, who was 32 when she first tried the procedure, was successful after one cycle. Though she was pregnant with triplets, only two girls survived.

Multiple pregnancies are not uncommon with IVF. According to the S.C.-based Southeastern Fertility Center, twins occur in 20 to 30 percent of cycles, while triplets occur in less than 5 percent.

Beyond the statistics, Schoenstra said her biggest fears and frustrations during the process came from what couldn't be communicated -- to her doctor, her family, her friends or even her spouse. "Nobody has really done anything in depth on how emotional it really is," she said of the complicated quest to get pregnant. "People will say, 'Oh, it's hard,' but we were pretty much at the breaking point when we finally got pregnant that first time. It consumes your life. It's everything you do. You're on the doctor's schedule, so nothing is spontaneous. It sends you over the edge."

When Dr. Grant Patton, founder and director of Southeastern Fertility Center, spoke at a fertility seminar the clinic hosted on Hilton Head Island last month, he told a room of nearly 25 couples inquiring about available fertility treatments that no matter how hard it is, maintaining a positive and game day-like mentality when going through the process is vital.

"It's kind of like detective work," said Patton, who was responsible for South Carolina's first IVF pregnancy in 1984. "We're trying to put together a diagnosis to see which treatment will be most effective and simplest for you. Try to make it a good experience, and remember you are not alone."

When her now 4-year-old twins, Anna and Emma, were about 18 months old, Schoenstra and her husband tried IVF again through the Georgia Center for Reproductive Medicine. She got pregnant after one cycle, and gave birth to Olivia, who now is 18 months old.

According to the Center for Reproductive Medicine, infertility affects one in every six couples of childbearing age. There is a female problem in 35 percent of the cases, a male problem in 35 percent of the cases, and a combined problem in 20 percent of cases. Of the 28 million couples in the United States affected by infertility, 50 percent seek treatment. Of those, approximately
85 percent conceive.

The numbers have not been on Courtney Naughton's side.

Now 34, Naughton has lost both of her fallopian tubes due to complications from ectopic pregnancies, and can only become pregnant through IVF.

During an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg has been implanted outside the uterus without the mother being aware. As the fetus grows, it eventually bursts the organ that contains it, endangering the expectant mother's life.

The first time this happened to Naughton, she lost the child and nearly lost her life. Doctors told her that her chances of becoming pregnant again were slim.

The pain of the experience created a rift in her marriage, she said, and eventually led to a divorce.

"We just didn't communicate about it at all," she said. "Nobody did. No one knew what to say."

At the time, Naughton was attending Monmouth University in New Jersey for a master's degree in corporate and public communication. To make sense of her own experience, she chose to write her thesis on the communication breakdown between spouses following pregnancy loss. For her research, she turned to an online support group she had joined for women who had
ectopic pregnancies.

"I asked them to tell me their stories. It was part of my healing process," Naughton said. "When I presented my thesis, it was the first time I really shared my experience and felt like people were finally listening and wanting to talk about it."

In 2001, Naughton remarried, but she lost her second fallopian tube after suffering from another ectopic pregnancy while on vacation in Florida. So far, she and her husband, Joe, have gone through three IVF cycles with no success. Because New Jersey is one of seven states that has laws mandating IVF coverage, the procedures were covered by the couple's health plan. But South Carolina does not have laws requiring IVF coverage, and a move to Bluffton in 2005 has left them in both an emotional and financial quandary.

"It's this constant battle in your head of, 'Do we take everything out of our savings account for something that's not guaranteed to work?' " Naughton said. "I'm probably better prepared to handle it now because I'm older and more mature, but it's like, 'Can I do this one more time?' "

Though she is undecided about whether she and Joe will pursue another cycle of IVF, Naughton said she has made it her mission to push for more conversation regarding infertility. "I'd love to get some legislation going so that 20 years from now, someone in my same position doesn't have to go through all the isolation and hurdles that I did," she said.

"My advice to anyone going through this is to keep the communication lines open. Talk about it to whoever your partner is, because it's going to be an emotional roller coaster."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Cool Beans?

Ok, this is driving me crazy.

In the last week, I have heard the phrase "cool beans" uttered on numerous occasions by numerous people (business associates - yikes!).

Did I not get the memo? Is "cool beans" making a comeback like gaucho pants and long sweaters paired with wide belts?

What did I miss? Why didn't anyone tell me? I know I am busy but geez, this is huge!

I had to do some research to get to the bottom of this new phenomenon. So, I turned to my pals at Wikipedia, which is kind of a real source and they told me --

Cool Beans is a curious phrase that uses nonsense to bring humor into a joyful exclamation. It originated in American pop culture during the late 1960s. Slang of this time is known to center around illogical phrasings of words, and "cool beans" is among the most durable lengthy late 60's era terms. It is used when referring to something with a positive connotation, for example, "That party was cool beans." Much like other hip slang words "cool beans" has faded with the times.

See, I was right, it faded and no mention of a resurgence on the horizon.

Now, how do I break the news to these pop-culture-offenders who are trying to jump start this little ditty when it should actually remain in the vault?

I am sure with a little thought I can come up with a really groovy idea.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Why I'll Never Be Southern

According to Benno Johnson "Southerness" Is …

... Surviving the sweltering summer thanks only to short sleeves and seersucker.

… A Smidgin of sweet talk, chewin’ the fat, a dollop of gossip and some powerful recollectin’ about good times not forgotten.

… Deeply felt and deeply fried.

… Raisin’ hell on Saturday night and beatin’ the devil to your family pew come Sunday morning.

… Saying “No thankee” to all things Yankee.

…The “Love y’all” legacy of Scarlett & Rhett, Pocohontas & John, Forrest & Jenny, June & Johnny, You & Me.

… A minister, a priest and a rabbi walking into a delta juke joint and nobody noticing.

… Carrying tomato aspic to the bereaved to help them carry their burden.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no idea who ol' Benno is.

The above was found in a recent magazine article (Garden & Gun, The Atlantan -- I'm not sure) however, I can find no biographical information on him. Granted my research is limited to Google, but I am light on free time.

Regardless, I will believe that Benno is indeed Southern. And since his wisdom and wit is clearly over my head or beneath my radar, I will accept the fact that despite my geographic locale, I will remain a sucker for all things Yankee.

Because "Yankee" Is ...

... well, me.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Heathen Bound for Heaven?

Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been 20 years since my last confession. (It has been awhile, so shoot me.)

This was my planned introduction for when I finally got back in the swing of church going. I was raised Catholic. Mom dragged us to church every Sunday until we were Confirmed and then felt bold enough to put up a fight.

Surprisingly, I ended up at a Catholic College, but somehow avoided all but one religion course in 4 years. (That one was required.)

But, lets get to the heart of the matter.

NEWS ALERT: Scandal! I am divorced.

And since I am divorced and therefore a sinner, I have been banned from the Catholic Church.

When Joe and I first got married we visited the Catholic Church in Freehold, NJ (where we were living) and inquired about joining. We were told flat out that we could attend, but we could not be members because I am divorced. So, we said $crew this and we moved on. Meaning, we haven’t been to church in oh, seven years save for a few weddings and christenings.

When my sister got married I could not be her maid of honor, because I was not Catholic. Really? I’m not Catholic anymore? If I start eating Italian food does that make me not Irish anymore?

But, I digress.

When my niece was born I could not be her Godmother because I was not Catholic. Or so we thought … After new Godparents (I call them the B Team) were selected and it was discovered that the Godfather was not Catholic (more scandal) we learned that only one Godparent had to be Catholic. Now, you tell us!

So, my sister gets knocked up again, asks me to be Godmother and I say, “of course” and then go on to suggest that despite the fact that I do not have to be a member of a church, maybe we will re-visit joining the Catholic Church. Surely, there must be some wiggle room …

So, I draft a lovely letter to the local church – an excerpt of which is provided below…

"Dear Father:

Now, we both understand the rules of the church, but we had hoped that there would be some level of forgiveness and that we would be welcomed back – after all isn’t confession and forgiveness a key component of the church?

We realize that we were divorced and are remarried, but it is rather upsetting when we are told that we cannot be a part of our family sacraments because of circumstances that took place many years ago.

So, I am writing now to see if we would be welcomed to join the church.

I attach our completed Parish Registration Form and look forward to your reply..."

Well, we were shocked to receive a “Welcome to the Parish” letter just days later. Really? We’re accepted woo hoo! Oh, and look they even included offering envelopes in our welcome package – I guess they really want us to start “participating” immediately.

And then, the phone rang. Um yeah, they forgot to mention that in order for us to really be members I would have to track down the dead beat that I married in the Catholic Church 10 years ago and get an annulment. Oh, and I would have to pay for my sins to the tune of $1,000. Really? What a bargain!

We just received our second set of offering envelopes.

I think it is time to break the news to Father Flanagan. It’s a no go father. I paid enough in that marriage.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Red Sox Naughton: My Life with a Red Sox Fan

It all started six years ago when I went against the grain and married a Red Sox fan. As the daughter of a devout NY Yankee fan and having grown up in a Yankee household this was considered a "mixed marriage".

Six years ago though, the Red Sox still sucked and the Yankees were still in the midst of their reign.

But, I'll admit I caught the fever. I've always been a fan of the underdog. I'll always pick the losing team in the hopes of a momentous comeback. I love watching grown men rush to the middle of the field and cry. It is hard not to get caught up in the moment.

I can remember sitting in my living room in October '86 watching game 6 of the Mets / Red Sox world series. The rest of the family was asleep and I was stunned as the Sox' first baseman let the ball roll threw his legs. (I was secretly rooting for the Mets that time 'round, which is why I waited for my Dad to go to bed before I turned the game on.) Nothing like a blooper to change history.

Ironically, later learned that Joe's greatest heartbreak wasn't a result the girlfriends who came before me, but instead it was a man named Buckner who broke his heart in '86. Yes, his deepest heartbreak came from an unwavering love of the Red Sox.

When the 2004 playoffs rolled around pitting the Red Sox against the Yankees I chose the Red Sox (much to my family's dismay) -- after all they were the underdog. And, I cheered right along with Joe as they broke the 86 year curse.

This past January as Joe's 40th birthday loomed, I decided to give him the best gift of all. You see, my love had never been to Fenway to see his love.

We purchased tickets for three games opening week. We flew out of Savannah in 70 degree temperatures and landed in Boston amidst snow, sleet, and rain.

That first night, we got off the subway and started the short walk to Fenway from the station and I could sense Joe's anticipation. As we rounded the corner and the Green Monster came into view Joe stopped dead in his tracks and stared. He was brought to tears and admittedly so was I. He was finally living his dream and I was honored to have been standing by his side. I never believed that the love of the game could be this powerful.

Joe worries about his Red Sox hat rotation with the same fervor that Francona worries about the pitching rotation. Today, Joe selected the Saint Paddy's Day green hat. Hopefully, Francona's decision to start Lester will not find Joe in his old school blue wool hat tomorrow night.

Here's hoping. Go Sox!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

When Grown Men Cry

Ok, they weren't crying, but it looked like they wanted to.

I speak of Joe, his best friend Joe P (we call him Pickles) and Billy Mentor, the two Joes's friend since grade school.

The highlight of our trip last week was not the air travel, as you may have guessed, but instead was witnessing the reunion of these three life-long friends.

It was moving, it was entertaining and it was downright hilarious to watch the three of them try to play touch football in the street. Just like the old days with seventy-five collective years added on ...

Grown men in their forties trying to turn back the hands of time with a little pigskin ...

Here is what I learned:

1. 40 is not the new 30 (This was actually Joe's quote.)
2. Men, in some cases, forge stronger relationships than women (a surprise to this communication scholar.)
3. The time between visits with good friends feels like minutes. It has been a year since our last visit to Pickles' & Ev's, but when we walked through the front door it seemed like it was yesterday.
4. Laughter is the best medicine.
5. No matter how much you love where you live, there is no place like home.

The four of us - Ev, my Joe, me, & Pickles.

Billy, Joe, & Pickles.

Note: My Joe is the only one with hair that isn't gray or missing!

They sure look winded to me!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Air Travel: The Threequel

Ok, I lied. I said we were done traveling for the year, but we had one more trip left in us. So, we packed the bags in preparation for a long weekend in the ol' homeland to visit with old friends and party like rock stars (well actually, old rock stars, who went to bed by 10:00 p.m. 2 of the 3 nights.)

It is no secret that I am less than thrilled with the status of air travel today. I don't know if it is the airlines or my fellow passengers that tweak me more, but I digress...

All our bags were packed, we were ready to go and then our flight from Charleston to Newark was cancelled. Yup, completely wiped from the board. Weather had backed things up pretty bad in Newark so rather than try to work out the problem, Continental started scrapping evening flights all together. This is when the stress began to mount...

"Um yes, we were booked on flight 2874 scheduled from CHS to EWR this evening and it has been cancelled."

"There isn't another flight for two days? Are you kidding me? You can't just cancel a flight and tell us it will be two days before we can get anywhere. Ok, thank you for checking."

"Fly out of Savannah tonight? That would be great! Can you change our return flight so that we arrive in Savannah as well? No, well then we would have to get sometime to pick us up in Charleston and drive us two and a half hours to get our car in Savannah, is that something you would like to do for us? No, I didn't think so. Yes, I'll hold."

elevator music -- elevator music -- elevator music

"Tomorrow morning is fine, Charleston to Newark, fine. Noooo, thank you!"

Fast forward 60 hours and we are back at Newark airport.

Rental car returned; bags checked; 60 minutes in the security line (this is when you really appreciate little ol' Savannah and Charleston airports) and we are at the gate ready to board.

"Ladies and gentlemen on flight 2322 to Charleston, we have oversold this flight and we are looking for volunteers to give up their seats ..."

Can you see the steam coming out of my ears? How do they "over sell" the flight"?

Dear Continental - 19 rows at 3 seats to a row = 57 seats. Once you hit 57 seats sold, STOP for the love of Pete, STOP!

Fast forward 60 minutes ...

With two $300 continental vouchers in hand and eight bucks a piece in airport food vouchers we are on our way back to Hertz to re-rent our car and re-drive back to Joe and Ev's to re-sleep one more night in the homeland.

This my friends, is our final trip for the year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Reality Bites

It’s official. I am addicted.

And yes, my mental health is being affected. Thank you for asking.

But what do you expect to happen to someone who wiles away her free time (mind you, it is limited) with an unhealthy reality T.V. obsession.

My obsession is less about the shows and more about the behavior of the reality “stars”. (There is a difference right?)

Frankly I am shocked that Survivor participants (cast members?) have yet to realize that there is a really good chance that once the cameras are rolling for the first time they will be informed that the show starts now and they should drop all their luggage because they are going in with the clothes on their backs!

Are they really surprised?

Did they think that going without a bra this particular day was the right move? Yeah, nothing like running through an obstacle course with un-restrained Double-Ds.

Did anyone consider that fishnets and combat boots could slow you down a bit? Not to mention that they offer a wonderful habitat for all kinds of festering bacteria while in 90 degree temperatures with 100% humidity every day.

Did they not think that their lip, belly, nipple rings may get a little funky after 39 days with no shower?

Whew. I am feeling a little better now that I got that off my chest (which by the way is supported by a bra today).

Once I do enter treatment for this debilitating addiction and in the spirit of full disclosure I guess I should also state for the record that I am strangely intrigued by and (See my post of March 16, 2007 for more.)

They’ve got me just where they want me – on their mailing lists!

They email me two to three times a week just to let me know which of my former classmates are looking for love, celebrating a birthday, or have visited my profile! My profile! They are looking for me? Well then, certainly sign me up for another year’s worth of gold membership privileges.

And, since I am a member it is only natural that I would take full advantage of the benefits and browse. Heck, I may even search for you who I just met today for the first time. Why not? If you have a profile, and its public, why wouldn’t I have some interest in your high school years?

Folks, this is a cry for help.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Long Time Waiting

It's been awhile.

Ironically, nothing drives me crazier than visiting a blog I love and finding no updates. So, today I turn over a new leaf. And sadly, a new keyboard -- I spilled coffee on it this morning, and spat water out all over it this afternoon. Good times.

Summer -- which used be "down time" in NJ to offer Jersey girls and guys maximum opportunity to visit the beach -- is actually just as busy as any other season here da South.

So, what did I do on my summer vacation? Ooh, ooh, I'll go, I'll go! (Flashback to 3rd grade, tipping forward in your desk/chair combo and assuming that the closer you got your hand to the teacher, the more likely she was to call on you -- yeah, that was me.)

Traveled a lot this summer -- learned a lot this summer. Namely, no matter how much I mumble under my breath people will still continue to try to board a plane before their row is called. Damn, that pisses me off.

We traveled West to Portland, OR for my dear friend Patrick's wedding. Portland was
fabulous and apparently even "green" cities have transvestites, homeless and meth-heads. On the upside, I got to see Patrick and watch 4.5 consecutive hours of Food Network programming on the flight there.

Next stop -- Bermuda. "Good morning, confirmation number please." I slide our confirmation and passports across the counter. "Great, we do have a number of seats available in First Class, do you care to Uh --". Me: "Upgrade? Yes, definitely yes!"

And, that is when I became a snob. Ok, a born again snob (who am I kidding?). It didn't matter how many people clammered to board, I was the first one on the plane and the first one off. (And, of course I got free Heineken to boot. Well, 4 Heinekens divided into the $300 to upgrade. Ok, I got 4 $75 Heinekens. Best I ever had.)

A short jaunt to Birmingham, AL for business and finally a trip to Washington, DC last weekend for Aunt Madeline's 80th birthday party and my travels for this year are over.

Two coasts, two countries, a half a dozen airports and one thing always remains the same. People don't listen. If you are in Zone 6 for boarding, don't board until they call Zone 6. Why is this so hard to comprehend?

Since bitch-slapping is against some crazy airport etiquette policy, what recourse do I have?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Our Conundrum

So, that is the name we are considering for our new vessel. Yes, you read correctly. I let Joe buy a boat. I mean... Guess what? We bought a boat!

Here is how it went down. Just prior to Memorial Day, Joe and I went out with our friends Paul and Carla on their new boat one Sunday afternoon. We headed to the "Redneck Riviera" (our local sandbar that appears in the May River at low tide) and had a blast. Paul put his persuasive powers into action and 4 Coronas later I was agreeing to buy a boat.

Of course, I didn't really think Joe would run out and do it, but alas he did. He called me at work on Monday to "say hi" and "oh by the way, I have some paperwork for you to sign."

Five days later my heart was beating a mile a minute as we tried to get our boat on the trailer (sans anyone with experience) at the boat landing. Now, we are old pros. I mean once you hit the dock the first time, the next few times don't really seem so bad.

The only thing we have yet to do is name our new vessel. We have a few options ...

"Irish Wake" - either you get it or you don't, if you don't we don't want to be your friend anyway.
"Latis" - the Celtic Goddess of Water & Beer

Any of these, because we can't think of anything better -
“On the Rocks”
“Fish n’ Chicks”
“Southern Belle”
“Southern Comfort”
“Northern Exposure”

So, that leads us to "Conundrum" -- get out your dictionary folks, it means a dilemma, which we seem to be in.

When we mentioned that name to the women who is to do the lettering for the boat, she said, "the Coast Guard may get confused if you ever have to make a distress call over the radio - they might think you said 'Condom'."

Seriously, this is what we are dealing with ... if we say Conundrum and the Coast Guard hears Condom, chances are they will never find us anyway.

So, we are still open for suggestions -- the more the merrier.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Say What?

It is no secret that since I've moved South, it has become necessary to change my style. My speaking style that is. I've adopted some key terms i.e. iced tea is ordered as "sweet tea" and "y'all" is beginning to roll off the tongue. Heck (also a recent addition to my vocabulary), when in Rome and all.

Today, the Bluffton Today website had a great post regarding linguistic styles.

Say what, you say?

Well, apparently I say what I say in 45% General American English, 35% Yankee, and 15% Dixie. (No Midwestern or Upper Midwestern in my profile.) Interesting that my numbers only equal 95%, I guess 5% of me remains a mystery ... well that or the test is complete hooey.

So now that I know, that you know, that I know what I sound like ... I thought that you may want to know, what I already know you sound like.

If so, click here -

Monday, April 23, 2007

Two men, a crowd, and an airport terminal

Applause suddenly erupted from a few gates away.

Since we had been sitting in the airport for hours, waiting and hoping that the impending Nor’easter would spare us and we would soon be back on our way and on time - I could only surmise that the applause was in response to a flight that was finally beginning to board.

But the applause continued to build and haggard travelers began to stand.

And then I saw the reason why.

Two lone soldiers were making their way through the crowd. Dressed in camouflage and with their heads dipped, I believe in modesty, they emerged.

Hundreds of strangers – no doubt all with differing political views and thoughts on the war in general – came together if only for a few minutes to salute two young men.

We started the day with one common thread - we were all flying Delta. But we ended our day together in pride, strength and with a sense of community - all formed right there in an airport terminal.

Tears streamed down my face as I made eye contact with one soldier. He nodded, smiled and strode on his way.

I hope the rest of their travels bring them the same respect and gratitude.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Breaking News

The time has come ... my Bluffton Today column is no more.
No swan song is scheduled (or requested from my Editors), but I thought you may enjoy the last column I wrote, which will not run. Apparently, my editor felt this would launch Pancake Gate II and I guess I have to agree. Ironinc that the paper allows anonymous blog posts and vox messages to spew vitroil, but a columnist is not allow to draw negative attention to anything. So much for the power of the pen.

The real reason behind my departure is based on philosophical differences – my philosophy is that the VOX (a method that allowsd anonymous caller to leave voice messages and then the paper pritns them) is a horrible medium for public opinion. BT disagrees with me. Bottom line, I just wasn’t having fun anymore. No, being ridiculed in the paper by anonymous callers is not fun, in case you were wondering.

But, I have paved the way for another unsuspecting Yankee to open their mouth and insert foot. It should be fun to watch!

Hot Pepper's Goes Cold

Now, I don’t like to complain (cue, laugh track), but I gave my heart to Pepper’s Porch and it
has since been broken.

In November 2005, I penned a column about the allure of this Lowcountry treasure –

“Pepper’s Porch was lit up like a Christmas tree with strings of white lights and caught our attention. Once inside, it felt as if we were sitting in an old friend’s dining room – it was casual, a keyboard was being played in the corner and artwork smattered the walls…

… For the remainder of my stay, we dined at Pepper’s Porch each night. When I finally arrived in Bluffton permanently it was our first stop, and remains at the top of our list. The “Back Bar” reminds me of a spot in New Jersey that Joe and I used to frequent often, and I know that if we ever convince our friend Neil to make the trek to SC for a visit, it will be the first place we take him. We have sat outside under the giant oak and watched old men “pick” (a term I picked up recently) at their mandolins and young children fly through the air on the swing that hangs from that oak.”

Again, in August 2006, I sang the praises of Pepper’s as #1 on my Happy Hour Hot Three List –

“We’ve been heading to Pepper’s most Fridays this summer. The new Back Bar opened a couple of months ago and the outdoor venue is a hit! I could sum it all up in two words – dollar beers. Yes, you read correctly, happy hour on Friday nights ‘til 7:00 p.m. features $1 beers, and $3 pitchers. … … Pepper’s Porch screams Lowcountry and that is what makes it a hit in my book.”

Well, I fear I have to take it all back and ask what happened to Pepper’s Porch?

Perhaps what I always loved most was that you could grab at drink at the Back Bar, sit down at a table upon a bed of oyster shells, sit back, relax, maybe order dinner, and just listen to some music.

Well, times they have changed.

Now, when I approached the bar I was told that if I was sitting at a table I would have to wait for a waitress. Ok, I’ll wait. And, I’ll wait. And, I’ll wait. I’ll flag her down, and I’ll wait some more. Hmmph. I’m getting thirsty over here.

Now, I’d like to order some food. Can I get a menu? Ok, I’ll wait. And, I’ll wait.

Hmmm? Where is our food? Ok, I’ll wait. And, I’ll wait. Here it is, except that steamed oysters aren’t supposed to petrify, they are supposed to be sweet and succulent and, can I get a bucket for my shells? Did she just say, “not right now”? Ok, I’ll wait.

No, we aren’t ready for our check yet. No, still not ready for our check, but I’ll have another drink. And, I’ll wait. And, I’ll wait.

I understand that the purpose of my trip was a relaxing, casual night out. But there is a different between laid back service and oh my gosh, I may die here waiting.

When I can’t stand it anymore I finally agree to take the check, upon which the waitress has added a tidy little tip of 18% for herself. For a party of two? You have got to be kidding me, right?

The good news is (yes, there was a little), Snow Bird Mike never disappoints. He provided great entertainment as always. And I have to say, I love the fact that the beer pitchers now have built-in ice compartments, a brilliant invention!

However, it saddens me that my “go to” hangout is lacking its luster.

And that got me thinking, what happened to Pepper’s Porch? Am I alone?

Let the VOX calls begin.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Starbucks Generation

Bluffton Today column, March 30, 2007

I stood with my head tilted back, my neck atrophying from the awkward angle as if watching the big screen from the front row. There was little room to step back to better my view with the crowd as large as it was. And as I strained to peruse my options, I panicked. I was not familiar with the lingo and with buzz words flying about I worried that I was not up to the task. With my proverbial tail between my legs I sheepishly asked the women behind the counter, “is a frapaccino the frozen kind?” “Yes,” she replied haughtily and with a look of disgust in her eyes.

And then it struck me. I am getting old.

I am of Generation X.

I grew up with a cassette player, a cabbage patch kid, and an Andre Agassi poster (with the long hair) on my closet door.

I applied for college the old fashioned way – with a handwritten application and essay. I didn’t use a computer fluently until I got to college and I didn’t email until I was in my twenties.

I bought my first cell phone in 1997, it cost me $30 a month and for that I got about 60 minutes of talk time. Oh, and did I mention it was the size of a paperback novel?

But now I am living in a world where coffee drinking is a cult activity. Where the company you work for can track your every movement with the GPS system on the company phone that they so graciously offered you. Where ten year olds have cell phones, home pages, and buddy lists and don’t have to watch commercials because they got TIVO for their ninth birthday.

The Starbucks Generation will never sit down with a photo album on their knees, flipping through the pages of their lives. Instead, they will simply send their grandkids a link to their blog. And that makes me a little sad, but I too am a victim.

A photo collage dons the wall in my master bedroom – a small collection of pictures from vacations Joe and I took to Jamaica and the Bahamas, pictures from my sister’s and my cousin’s weddings, my niece’s christening, and some other family events. But, those are the only real pictures I have to commemorate the last seven years of my life. The rest exist on CDs jammed into my desk drawer, or as saved images in random folders on my hard drive or better yet in online photo galleries somewhere in cyber space.

The times they are a changing.

I remember the family photo albums that stocked the shelves when growing up. I can still picture the pages vividly and I know from memory which album commemorates which events.

A few months ago when I started a bike safety project with my Leadership class I called my mom and asked her to find the picture of me at a bike rodeo when I was six. She found it and the picture was just as I remembered it.

Last week as I watched my niece, Erin, take her first tentative steps I thought, wow she looks just like her mom. And, so I paged through a photo album of my sister’s childhood and found that picture that I knew was there of her in a white dress, with little pink flowers with a face that mirrors that of her daughter’s.

And that makes me wonder how in the age of technology and all things digital - where will my past go?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Holding Court

Bluffton Today column, March 23, 2007

Last week my Mom, the retired physical education teacher, saw the Bluffton Bedlam brackets in the paper and called my sister immediately to tell her all about my placement. You see, my mother didn’t realize that this was affiliated with the NCAA basketball tournament. Instead she thought that somehow I was ranked among the sixty-four best people in Bluffton and that some sort of competition would ensue hopefully with me being crowned Ms. Bluffton.

Funny right? Well, it got me thinking.

If we had a contest for Mr. or Ms. Bluffton, who would be the victor?

So, without further a do, I nominate the following for consideration:

Jacob Preston. Salt of the earth. Great guy. Bluffton’s “tallest potter” is one of the most kind and welcoming folks that I have met since my journey south. I see him everywhere and each time I do I truly feel like a part of this community.

Kim Abbott. As Director of Athletic Development for USCB, Kim will lead the charge to bring athletic teams to USCB’s New River campus and certainly spark some camaraderie and good ole fashioned competition here among our neighbors in the South. (A golf tournament to raise funds for the athletic program is slated for May 21 at Palmetto’s Bluff May River Golf Club.)

Doug Hancock. The first local I met. Doug gave me a tour of Bluffton via the May River and he narrated the entire trip, telling tales of all of the original Blufftonians as our vessel cruised past their backyards along the May.

Mary Vaux. We met quite by accident, but formed a quick bond tending to her daughter Emily’s last minute wedding details. Mary brought Joe and me into the fold of her family friends, having only known me for a few weeks. Mary has a huge heart and is involved in everything that is good about Bluffton.

Jim Wheeler and the two guys named Bill. These are the guys I start most mornings with at the Bluffton Coffee House. They are always good for some local gossip, a great story and of course many a column idea. Thanks boys.

Bill Herbkersman. I have to say, I like the guy, a lot. He is accessible, he responds to email; he is one of the few down to earth politicos that I have met. Now, this doesn’t mean I am a convert, but yes I may even vote for him next time around.

Sharon McMahon. Wife, mother and middle school math teacher. Need I say more? Ok, she is also my sister, but I am always amazed by the amount of time and energy she puts into her students. She really cares. It is her and the hundreds of other educators that we should thank, rather than complain about in anonymous Voxes and blogs. (I knew I could find away to get a Vox dig in. Mission accomplished.)

And Mom, since my opening paragraph was intended to tease you, you deserve tribute as well. As I said at your retirement dinner … “Often times you hear people say, ‘oh no, I am turning into my mother’, well I couldn’t think of anyone I would rather become.”

So, here is an idea folks, let’s pledge to spend at least today, maybe even a week thanking and paying homage to the Blufftonians that we are lucky to have. Let’s leave the complaining on the shelf if just for a little while and focus on what matters. Our neighbors, our friends, and preserving our state mind.

And until Donald Trump arrives in town with his Miss Universe posse in tow, I’ll be practicing my elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist-Miss America-wave in the hopes that I will wear a crown one day. And of course, I will continue to wish for world peace.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Reunited, It Doesn't Feel So Good

Bluffton Today column, March 16, 2007

Lately I’ve been hearing a Peaches & Herbs song playing on a loop in my head, “Reunited and it feels so good, reunited ‘cause we understood …” It is driving me crazy.

You see, one day last week I came home to find an email from in my inbox. The email indicated that I had received a "Classmates Email" from an ex-boyfriend, who by the way, shall remain anonymous in order to protect the innocent.

I couldn't resist, I had to click.

The subject of the email from said ex was, "Just wondering" and went on to read, "Are you the Courtney Hampson who used to live in Brick, NJ in the 90's? If so, I think you may know who I am? If you are, how are you doing?"

Suddenly it all came rushing back; this guy was a semi-nerd then and is clearly still a bozo today. I mean seriously, if you took the trouble to go to the website, look up the year you know I graduated high school and the town you know I lived in, and found my name there, chances are it is me, right?

Anyway, I was at a crossroads. Do I ignore his email or do I respond and tell him how wonderful my life is today, sans him. I of course, chose the later. My reply went something like this …

“Yes, I am the Courtney Hampson who lived in Brick, NJ and graduated in 1991 and yes, of course I know who you are.

I am great! I live Bluffton, South Carolina (Hilton Head area) with my husband, Joe. My mom and Sharon and her husband all live here as well. We love it in the South. We had a beautiful new home built. We are close to the beach and of course lots of golf. I have an amazing job in marketing, I write a weekly column for the local paper and I am teaching classes at the college level…”

Basically, my message was eat your heart out buddy, I am so much better than you ever imagined.

I’m not sure if it worked though. I am on day sixteen of the watch, and still no reply from the ex. (Did I mention that Joe thinks I am kook for even visiting the website?)

My dismay over why he chose not to respond got the best of me and I felt the need to explore further so I delved deep into his Classmates profile. And, oh boy you won’t believe what I found. His favorite music is the latest mix-tape that he made. (Alert, alert, alert!)

Now, making mix tapes was pretty hip in the 80’s, but it wasn’t cool in 1996 when I dated him (yes, he still made mix tapes in 1996) and I am pretty sure it is definitely not cool now. I mean does anyone still actually produce tapes? Are they even available in the stores? As I pictured him holed up in his garage with a boom box, that got me thinking…

Why did I embark on this mini-fact-finding-mission to discover more about a guy I dumped over a decade ago? More importantly, why are millions of people each day using these sites to reconnect?

Is it an honest desire to find someone from your past and catch up? Or is it the chance to finally one-up that girl who dumped you in the 9th grade? I haven’t found the answer, although I continue to be intrigued by the phenomenon.

As I penned this column and talked with Joe about how ridiculous the concept of is he gently reminded me about my little encounter with, which I had blocked from my memory. He apparently finds my craziness mildly entertaining and thought I should fess up, so I will.

Last year, I received an email from saying “Someone is looking for you. Join now to reconnect!” I couldn’t resist. I logged on and swiftly dropped $29 for an annual membership to find out who was searching for me.

Well, sadly it Paula Siminski from the class of 1968. She graduated five years before I was even born. $29 down the drain.

I haven’t found an answer yet to the question of why we (me and three trillion members of and have this need to look to the past.

I am guessing that we all really want that Sally Field Oscar moment … you love me, you really love me!

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who moved to Bluffton. Yes, the Courtney who went to Brick High School and graduated in 1991. If I dated you in the 90s, send me an email at You know I’ll reply!

Friday, March 09, 2007

di ma kre se

Bluffton Today column, March 9, 2007

I go both ways.

I’ll take a Republican here, a Democrat or two there, maybe even a little Independent if the mood strikes me. But despite my open political arms I am struggling with the politics here in the Lowcountry.

I had to hit the dictionary to make sure that I am not going crazy and that democracy is still government for the people, by the people, yada, yada. But, just to make sure we are all on the same page of our civics book.

de·moc·ra·cy (di-ˈmä-krə-sē) noun.
1 a: government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections 2: a political unit that has a democratic government

dem·o·crat (de-mə-ˌkrat) noun.
1 a: an adherent of democracy b: one who practices social equality 2. capitalized : a member of the Democratic party of the United States

We all know and understand these definitions, right?

Then, someone please explain to me why according to Tuesday’s paper, “Democratic party officials have said that they do not expect to field a candidate in the (Senate) race.”

Then, please explain to me why the Beaufort County Democratic Party never fielded a candidate to run for the County Council Seat (Bluffton) last November.

Then, please explain to me where the heck all of the Democrats are.

No offense to my husband and the ten other folks (all with twenty plus years on Joe) who actively support the party. But, if the basis for the Democratic Party is to support democracy, then how come they aren’t?

Field a candidate people! So, you never win, who cares? The little engine that could didn’t make it up the hill the first time out. I think you can, I think you can.

We know that Bluffton is growing by leaps and bounds. We also know that a good chunk of the folks moving here are thirty or forty some things with families looking to settle. We also know that many are arriving via a blue state.

Why are we sitting back and allowing the Republican candidates to duke it out? We now have three Republican candidates for Scott Richardson’s vacated Senate Seat. Don’t we even want to get in the race? Surely, there is a Democrat somewhere with some experience or desire.

You are killing me people. I am dying a slow, agonizing death as a result of democracy withdrawal.

Surely I am not the only one thinking this (thank you Mom for your continued support). What is it going to take to get a little political action?

Basically people hate politics, I get that. But, people in Bluffton LOVE to complain. Well, complaining is not getting you anywhere! Stand up, have a voice, be seen and be heard.

Here is your chance.

Meet me on Tuesday, March 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Pepper’s Porch for the Democrat Club South of the Broad event. Sounds like a membership drive people!

Who knows in a few months we might be able to say – we thought we could, we thought we could.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who moved to Bluffton. Email your Fox News worthy rants to her at

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Inconsiderate Truth

Bluffton Today column, March 2, 2007

I have to be honest with you. I am getting quite sick of the nasty letters to the editor, the even nastier anonymous VOX comments, incidents of road rage, and car vs. dog hit and run accidents. Shame on us. What is happening here and why is everyone so angry?

Now, before you get all up in arms about my accusations, calm down. The inconsiderate vibe seems to travel well beyond our borders. Earlier this week I was in Savannah for dinner where the diners at the next table complained about the menu, the wine list, and the prices to the waitress while she stood by patiently and with a smile. What makes people think that they can say whatever they want and never consider hitting the edit button?

Oh, it gets better. From dinner we moved on to the Johnny Mercer Theatre to see Harry Connick, Jr. in concert. Harry started the show at eight o’clock on the dot. Twenty percent of the audience however was not as considerate. For fifteen minutes, late arrivals trickled in making noise along the way. Did I mention how many times a cell phone rang during his performance? Again, shame on us.

The inconsiderate truth is a nationwide epidemic, which leads me to my number one pet peeve.

Nothing drives me crazier than air travel. “Ladies and gentleman, we would now like to begin boarding our first class passengers for flight 452 to Newark.” Now, I know there are only a dozen first class seats, so how come 30 people are now hovering at the gate?

“Ladies and gentleman, we would now like to welcome any children flying alone or passengers who need assistance.” I see one child traveling and a man in a wheelchair, both of who have just been run over by 20 more passengers racing to elbow their way to the gate.

“Ladies and gentleman, we would now like to board passengers in rows 18-24.” By this time everyone is in line at the gate. Everyone but me, because I follow the rules and I am in row eight, so I wait.

By the time I board the plane and make my way to row eight, there is no overhead bin space left, because everyone at the back of the plane put their luggage in the front of the plane. God forbid they have to carry their luggage twenty extra feet. I mean, hello! You schlepped from the house to your car, from the car to the airport, from security to the gate, would a few more feet kill you?

So, I have to walk to the last row, to the only empty overhead bin and store my carry on luggage.
Now the plane lands in Newark and I have to wait for the entire plane to de-plane (are you picturing a small man in a white suit on a fantasy island?) before I can make my way to the back of the plane to get my luggage.

Last one on the plane, last one off the plane, because I follow the rules.

I truly don’t understand why people feel that they have the right to ignore the rules and treat people so poorly.

Breathe Courtney, breathe.


Now back to Bluffton. A few words of wisdom my dear fellow citizens:

If you don’t live in Rose Hill, don’t weigh in on their issues (anonymously), let them handle it. Why do you feel the need to comment on their issues?

If you are driving 278 and hit a dog, cat or any other creature for that matter, for crying out loud, stop your car and do something about it you heartless fool.

Further, if you are driving 278 behind a 90 year old woman with coke bottle glasses and a maximum speed of 32 mph, chuckle to yourself, remember that you will be that old one day and without cutting anyone off, pass her. (Also try not to follow the 90 year old woman to a parking lot where you will beat her up.)

Come on people, be nice. Didn’t your mama teach you anything?

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who moved to Bluffton. She used to get soap in her mouth when she spoke out of turn. Email her at

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Jersey Devil v. The Gray Man of Pawleys Island

Bluffton Today column, February 23, 2007

So, earlier this week while grabbing my java at the Bluffton Coffee House, our conversation turned to the topic of the Jersey Devil. (Perhaps that is what they call me behind my back and there was a slip of the tongue?)

So, allow me to revisit my roots and recall the story that was commonplace at many a slumber party. The legend of the Jersey Devil has a number of versions – all shared as a right of passage growing up in the Garden State.

According to New Jersey history, most tellers of the legend of the Jersey Devil trace the devil back to Deborah Smith who emigrated from England in the 1700s to marry a Mr. Leeds. The Leeds family lived in the area of the New Jersey Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey.

Apparently Mr. Leeds was insistent about having heirs. Mrs. Leeds had already given birth to twelve children, when she became pregnant again. The story goes that Mrs. Leeds invoked the devil during a very difficult and painful labor and that when her thirteenth child was born, it either immediately, or very soon afterwards, (depending on the version of the story), grew into a full-grown devil and escaped from the house.

From that day on the Jersey Devil is said to have haunted New Jersey and even parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania. The most recent account of an encounter with the Jersey Devil was in Freehold, NJ (we used to live there) in 2002.

All this talk of the Jersey Devil got me thinking.

Surely, South Carolina has similar legends. James Brown was the first legend to come to mind, but he is getting plenty of press on his own. So, a little research turned up the story of “The Gray Man of Pawleys Island”.

Here is an excerpt from the state’s website written by Patrick McCawley.
Historical ghost stories abound in South Carolina, but one of the oldest and most famous is the story of the Gray Man of Pawleys Island, a coastal community in Georgetown County. Several versions of this story exist, but all say the apparition appears before major storms to warn the island’s inhabitants of approaching danger.

The oldest version begins with a young woman from Colonial Charleston, the daughter of a prominent family. She had many suitors, but would not choose among them because she was in love with her wild and reckless cousin. Both sets of parents objected to the match and discouraged it by sending the young man to Europe. News soon arrived from France of his death in a duel. Brokenhearted, the young woman went into mourning, refusing to see suitors or other callers.

A year later, a young wealthy rice planter from the Waccamaw area visited the family. A recent widower, he fell in love at first sight with the still grief-stricken girl and sought her father’s permission to court her. The father agreed, but told the young man the sad story of her previous romance. Eventually, the young planter won her hand and the couple married. The newlyweds wintered on a large estate on Waccamaw Neck and summered on Pawleys Island.
During the Revolution the planter served as a captain under Francis Marion. While away fighting the British in the summer of 1778, his family moved to the summer home on Pawleys Island. One evening, a violent storm foundered a ship off shore. The slaves saw one survivor stumble out of the surf. The slaves told him their master was away, but that the mistress would provide him with shelter until the end of the storm. They took him to the summer house and gave the stranger food and dry clothes. When the mistress of the house came to greet him, she fainted. The mysterious stranger cried out and ran from the house, disappearing into the storm. He was her lost love thought dead many years before. It was later learned he died of yellow fever and exposure while trying to find his way south to Charleston. It is said he still haunts the island in the vicinity of this old house, a shadowy "Gray Man" warning islanders of storms and the perils they bring.

One hundred years from now as people travel the Lowcountry in their Jetson-esque flying machines, they will tell the legend of “The Big Mouth of Bluffton”. Who do you think it will be?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is It Wrong?

Is it wrong that this morning while driving to work, I wished that the old man in the white corvette who passed me (and 3 other cars on the left on his way to a left turn a 1/4 mile down the road) flipped over and skidded across the road like the NASCAR driver crossing the finish line?

No, what I fear is wrong is that I just used NASCAR as a point of reference. Wow, I think I just became a Southerner.

I'll Show You Mine

Bluffton Today column, February 16, 2007

Since moving here we had been searching for a restaurant to replace our beloved “Metro Café” in Freehold, NJ. The first time Joe and I went to “Metro Café” we ordered a sweet and spicy calamari and shrimp appetizer. The dish arrived with chopsticks on the plate. In an effort to show off (I think) Joe picked up the chopsticks to demonstrate his skill. As he closed in around the first piece of shrimp … snap! The chopsticks broke in half, because after all they were breadsticks not chopsticks. We had a good laugh over that, and returned to Metro Café many times. It became “our place.”

So, for two years we have been on the prowl for a new “our place” Lowcountry style. It took awhile, but we finally found it. And, that got me thinking …

How many of you have “that place” where you go to celebrate the special occasions, or for a pick me up when you are feeling blue?

I’ve had a few in my day.

My high school/college boyfriend, Brian, and I made The Crab’s Claw in Lavallette our place, when he invited me there for Easter Dinner my senior year of high school. I had never celebrated a holiday without my parents until that point and it was that Easter dinner that made me realize, wow I am a grownup now. We dined there the night before I left for college and then again the night after I came back home six months later (homesick for him and with a 2.0 GPA from West Virginia University, ranked the number 1 party school in 1991, you do the math).

My best friend from graduate school, Patrick, and I would always meet before class at the T.G.I. Fridays in Eatontown. It was nothing special, but it was our place. And despite a close knit group of fellow graduate students, we never let them be a part of our ritual. We ordered the same appetizers each week, practiced our presentations for our class that evening, and every once in awhile we would add a drink to our repertoire – it seemed that a drink would calm our nerves a bit before we had to stare into 25 sets of eyes and practice our public speaking skills. Those were the days.

Now, I know the suspense is killing you … and I am willing to share (courtesy of my new Southern hospitality attitude) the new place that Joe and I discovered. It is “211 Park” on the Island. The décor and menu remind us so much of our beloved Metro Café, we just felt at home there the second we stepped through the door.

Add to that, the food is phenomenal – “an eclectic menu with fusion cuisine”. Try the goat cheese casserole served with crusty bread – it is to die for. The tuna, tuna, tuna appetizer is phenomenal – sushi grade tuna bites, encrusted in spices and served with shaved ginger, wasabi and teriyaki. Yum. The cedar planked salmon melts in your mouth, as do the mashed potatoes. The wine list is impressive and they serve Guinness, which makes Joe a happy customer. Perhaps my favorite part is Kathy P., the waitress who has served us the last two times we have gone. She has a remarkable Midwestern accent with a little Southern twang and tons of energy. She makes dining there fun.

Now, I’ve showed you mine, will you show me yours?

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who moved to Bluffton. She shares well with others. Thank her mom for that. Email Courtney at

Monday, February 12, 2007

Have a Heart

Bluffton Today column, February 9, 2007

Hi my name is Courtney and I am addicted to Beverly Hills 90210 re-runs. (Hi Courtney!) Yes, it is true. Everyday after work I settle in on the couch for back to back episodes of 90210. Yes, I’ve seen them all a dozen times, but for some reason I can’t turn away.

Most recently Brenda was waiting for Dylan to pick her up for her surprise Valentine’s Day date. Brenda was in a tizzy because Dylan wouldn’t give her any hints as to where they were going. After 40 minutes of drama it was revealed that the big date was to donate blood. And, that got me thinking …

As we embark on Valentine’s week, we will undoubtedly be bombarded by advertisers suggesting that they know the best gift to give our loved ones - chocolates, romantic dinners, jewelry, flowers, homemade coupon books (always a favorite) - the options are endless.

But, what if you were asked to consider giving a gift to a stranger who you had never met but needs your help regardless?

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in America needs blood. In areas were populations are increasing by leaps and bounds (like the Lowcountry) the need for blood is even greater because as our population grows the number of blood donors do not necessarily follow the same trend.

Have I piqued your interest? Will you have a heart and consider giving blood?

To give blood to another person, you must:
Be healthy. "Healthy" means that you feel well and can perform normal activities. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, "healthy" also means that you are being treated and the condition is under control.
Be at least 17 years old
Weigh at least 110 pounds (no problem here)
Not have donated blood in the last 8 weeks (56 days)

Your health history will also be discussed as part of the donation process before any blood is collected and a medical professional will have your temperature, iron level, blood pressure and pulse checked in order to ensure your well being.

Then comes the prickly part, your arm will be cleaned and a needle will be inserted to draw the blood. Then, you sit back and relax for 7 to 10 minutes until approximately a pint of blood has been collected.

Not convinced yet? You get refreshments when you are done in order to help your body adjust to the loss of fluid.

It sounds easy enough - 7 to 10 minutes of your life in order to save another.

There are a few options for giving blood as your gift to a stranger for Valentine’s Day. You can make an appointment at the Savannah Donor Center (25 Tibbet Avenue, Savannah) today, tomorrow, or any day next week or stop by one of these two community events:

Saturday, February 10, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Southern Women’s Show
Savannah International Trade & Convention Center
One International Drive
Savannah, GA

Monday, February 12, 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Saturn National Donor Day at Café SCAD
Savannah College of Art & Design – West Boundary Street
Savannah, GA

For more details visit:

Go forth and donate!

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who moved to Bluffton. Despite some local rumors to the contrary, she does indeed have a heart. Contact Courtney at

Clean up in aisle two

Bluffton Today column, February 2, 2007

I popped into one of our local food stores on Saturday for a few items. Prepare yourself. I am getting ready to complain and I know that some of you go berserk when I name names so I figured we could play elimination. Said food store is not Piggly Wiggly, Publix, or Food Lion.

Anyway, in an effort to get in and out quickly, Joe and I chose the self checkout lane. Every time we attempt to self-check we hit a stumbling block. This time was no different. We had only two items left to scan and I thought we were going to be home free and then it happened. The light lit up, the screen flashed “ask for cashier help” and we were stuck. “Ask for cashier help” would be an easy enough task, except that said cashier sits up on a stool like a lifeguard. He watches the action but I never see him jump in the pool, he doesn’t react to anyone who needs help.

Another woman trapped at the self-checkout next to ours exchanged some choice words with the cashier and that got me thinking …

What price do we pay for customer service these days? If I am paying good money in the food store and I have even elected to do the scanning and bagging myself, do you think it is too much to ask for a little customer service when my lane lights up and the screen starts flashing like an amusement park ride? I think not.

Now you know that I am not one to keep my mouth shut, so in a more than conversational tone I pointed out the problems with the self-checkout lanes. Of course, no one who worked there was listening, so my only conclusion was to write about it.

Sunday morning we headed out again to run some errands. This time, Neighbors Gas Station and Car Wash was on the agenda – the “almost spring” weather that arrived a few weeks ago had dusted my car with a good coat of pollen and it was a little embarrassing.

Talk about a customer service 180, this place is awesome (did I really just use that word?). A young man took our “order” for the super-duper wash and from that point forward there were no less than three employees working on our car, vacuuming, dusting, window washing. This was customer service at its best. The employees all appeared to be teenagers and they were kind, considerate and smiling the whole time. And it was frigid on Sunday - not the ideal weather for a car wash.

We tipped them well and as we pulled away Joe and I talked about how this great experience was such a contradiction to the previous day’s checkout debacle.

So, why is customer service such a hard concept to grasp these days?

Interestingly a few days before these events, I was in a meeting with the CEO of the company I work for. He mentioned that he doesn’t like when people reply to a request with, “No problem.” I did a quick scan of my brain to calculate how many times I had said that to him as he continued, “By saying ‘no problem’, we imply that there could be a problem, but we will attempt to avoid it.”

He makes a lot of sense (probably why he is the CEO) and as I replayed that conversation in my head I realized that perhaps customer service is lacking because we anticipate the worst. Instead we should anticipate the best and make customer service “our pleasure.”

Geesh, the Southern way is rubbing off on me, bless my heart.

Friday, January 26, 2007

And that got me thinking

Bluffton Today column, January 26, 2007

It had to have been fate. Bluffton Today launched during the first week of April, 2005 – the same week that I made Bluffton home. I picked it up right away and found that I loved the idea of a hometown newspaper. It was a lesson in contradictions for me. Having spent the last few years stopping at Quick Chek in the morning for the Daily Record and the Star Ledger (whose Sunday papers averaged 5 lbs on a light news day) I realized that I did indeed move to a small town.

And, that got me thinking …

Surely there were other recent transplants who needed some help navigating their new hometown - and the New Hometown column was born a few months later.

I’ve been writing New Hometown for almost eighteen months now and living in Bluffton for almost two years, so I figured it was time for a change. (Stop the celebration naysayers, this is not my last column.) Oh, you’ll still get the scoop on everything Bluffton, but I wanted a little extra freedom to tackle any topic. So, a couple weeks ago I asked the readers for new column name suggestions.

Thank you to everyone who sent in some great ideas – Margie Anderson, Susan Heck, Sondra Goldberg, Linda Finch, Jack Osburn, Joanne Hackett and my Southern friend “Boots” whose suggestions, while tongue in cheek, would have gotten me fired in no time.

We (my editors and moi) ended up going with “And That Got Me …” - Some weeks you’ll get me thinking, other weeks you’ll get me hollering, and some weeks you’ll get me wondering. Same content different moniker.

When I put out the call for suggestions I promised a feature story on the winning contributor. And since the winner is me (balloons and confetti are falling around me as you read), here is a closer look at the girl you call “Jersey”.

I’m addicted to Chap Stick and reality television.

I didn’t get my first cavity until I was in college and I am proud to say that since that first discovery I have had no others.

I wear a size 10 shoe (ugh).

If I don’t wear my contacts or glasses I can’t see my hand in front of my face.

My golf swing closely mirrors my field hockey swing, which is why I still have not broken 100.

I celebrated my 5th wedding anniversary this past summer.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in social work and a Master’s degree in Corporate and Public Communication.

I am a millionaire and don’t have to work. I’m kidding - just trying to see if you were still reading.

I have a loud and obnoxious laugh (more like a cackle) and chances you’ve heard me in a restaurants and thought “what the heck is so funny over there.”

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

My cousin Michael is my hero.

I am afraid of heights.

I like to paint, draw, and create.

I hope you continue to read. It only gets better from here.

To the 42 Ohio natives who moved to Bluffton yesterday – welcome, this is wonderful place to live.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who moved to Bluffton. She brings the Jersey attitude to the Lowcountry.

Friday, January 19, 2007

An Eye Opening Experience

January 19, 2007 Bluffton Today column

When I lived “Up Nawth” I taught speech communication as an adjunct professor. I was scared to death the first day I stepped foot in the classroom. Lucky for me I had an 8:00 a.m. class with twenty doe-eyed recent high school graduates who had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I could do not wrong. Because if nothing else, I knew that I knew more than they did and the rest I was able to fake.

One of my favorite students from that first class, Andy, wrote the following in his class evaluation, “Northampton should only hire young, cool professors. Courtney was tough, but fair and even though she admitted at the end that she had never taught before, I never would have guessed.” Andy made me realize that I should take my own advice. And, what I had been preaching to him all semester – “the nerves are in your head, just relax” – was a mantra that I needed to remember.

Then of course I had the dope who actually went to the bathroom in his pants, at his desk, in my classroom. And no, it wasn’t the easy clean-up kind of “go”. The details are more than I need to share here, but that incident really made me reevaluate why the heck I was schlepping myself to a part-time job two or three times a week.

Over the course of three years I had some amazing students who taught me a lot. The difficult students challenged me and made me a better teacher. The straight-A students taught me a thing or two and made me grateful to be a part of their college experience.

The hardest task of all was getting the students to make eye contact with their audience and me when speaking. The nerves would kick in and suddenly the podium, their bracelet or the note cards in their hands became the most interesting items in the room. For three years and over 400 students eye contact was my nemesis.

Until now.

Last week I started teaching a Speech Course for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University at the Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort. Again, I was nervous. I was accustomed to a civilian audience and not quite sure what to expect from 16 Marines (and former Marines) and a one Navy man. Well, I got my answer - eye contact.

What a pleasure it was to see 17 sets of us eyes staring back at me whenever I spoke. Even more impressive was the student’s ability to make eye contact with every person in the room each time they spoke. Now, I know I what I have been missing. I believe the Marines are certainly teaching our guys and gals well.

Once I got past the eye contact phenomenon I wanted to better understand what it was that my students did each day at the Air Station. And suddenly, speech communication lost its luster. Here are 17 men and women who are maintaining, and testing F-18s and all of the paraphernalia that accompanies that great machine. This is important work, especially recognizing the state of the world today.

I feel like I should be thanking my students every time I see them for the work that they are doing and you know what, you should too.

And the rockets red glare ...

January 12, 2007 - Bluffton Today column

So, what is the worst thing that could happen when trying to sell your home? Give up? How about your neighborhood becoming the topic of Vox discussions for seven solid days? (Probably ten days by now).

I live in Pine Ridge and yes, I heard the fireworks on New Years Eve and again last Friday night and yes, I had some choice words for my silly neighbors, but let’s put things in perspective people.

The Vox callers are deducing that every resident in Pine Ridge breaks the law and has a disregard for the community because one resident was setting off fireworks. The concerned neighbors called the police, what more can we do?

Maybe the problem lies with the Police Department – why aren’t they fining the people who are breaking the law? Better yet, if it is illegal to set off fireworks in Beaufort County then maybe we should be complaining about the fact that they are for sale at every point where our borders meet Jasper County.

I am sure we could find fault in every neighborhood in Bluffton - parking, peeing in the community pool, overgrown lawns, teenagers with garage bands, you name it. But, seriously folks get a grip. Don’t chastise an entire neighborhood based on the actions of one idiot.

Now, if you are in the market for a four bedroom, two and half bath home on a quiet, wooded, cul de sac lot with living room, family room, dining room, and study, that has been professionally painted and landscaped, shoot me an email. We’ll work out a deal.

On to bigger and better things … Today is Joe’s 40th birthday. We will be having a fireworks show to celebrate in our backyard tomorrow evening. Just kidding. Let me start again. Today is Joe’s 40th birthday and despite his creaking bones, graying hair, and obvious poor choice in a spouse, I love him dearly and hope that all his wishes come true. In all honesty, he doesn’t look a day over thirty-five and aging with him will indeed be a pleasure.

On to even bigger and better things … it is time to re-vamp my column.

I have been towing the “new girl in town” line for almost 18 months now. I’ve been living in Bluffton for just shy of two years, and I don’t really consider myself a newbie anymore. (Cue moans and groans from the locals). I am comfortable here. I have good friends here. I have discovered restaurants, beaches and stores that I love. I’ve come to appreciate the Lowcountry way of life and I am even warming to the weather patterns.

So, while I intend to continue writing about everything I see and do here in Bluffton and beyond, I need a new name for my column. And, I turn to you for suggestions. Anticipating some of the responses that I may get I started a list:

Does She Think Before She Talks
Go Home Yankee
Northerners Do It Better

Seriously, whether you love me or hate me, I would enjoy your suggestions for a new column name. To sweeten the pot, the reader with the “winning” suggestion will be featured in a future column.

And, that’s all folks.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Might as well face it, I'm addicted ...

They say, “The first step is admitting it”.

So, here goes – I am addicted to my BlackBerry. Wow that felt good.

It didn’t take long, I only received it on Tuesday, but I can’t put it down. It is like a shiny new car or a cute new boyfriend (yes, I am married, bear with me) – I want to go everywhere with it and show it off.

Everyone is in awe. When I brought it to my sister’s house she said, “I’ve never seen one before,” and she oohed and aahed as I showed her what it could do. My friend Huntley remarked, “You know that thing is smarter than you.” Smarter than him too I guess, since he was unsuccessful in helping me change my ring tone. Joe is a BlackBerry veteran, but still harbored some obvious jealousy over my new and improved model.

“Those things will kill you,” they say. They are right. The power that it wields is frightening. You mean at any moment, with the roll of my thumb, I can reach nirvana? Ahem, I mean I can access my emails? Perhaps it is the innate desire to respond to the email “ding” while driving that will kill us.

My, how times have changed. A little technology has come a long way.

In middle school, I had computer class once a week. The room was always kept ice cold; to “keep the computers healthy” our teacher would say. There were only a dozen or so computers in the room, so we had to share. I couldn’t differentiate the DOS from the desk. Thankfully Erika Miscio sat next to me. She was a whiz!

In high school, I took a keyboarding class and I couldn’t resist the desire to look at the keyboard despite the warnings that if I didn’t look at the teacher, I would fail. Memorizing the keyboard was the goal. Lucky for me, I had one of my fingers smashed between two field hockey sticks during a game and I was allowed special privileges on the keyboard. Since one finger was set in this metal contraption with lots of tape, I couldn’t be expected to master keyboarding with only 9 fingers.

In the nineties when I was in college, I was re- introduced to working on a computer and the concept of a computer lab. I embraced the technology of fixing mistakes without using white out and I never looked back.

In graduate school – after being bombarded with email assignments and online discussion boards, I revolted briefly and wrote a paper about the longevity of the greeting card and handwritten communication. Of course, I had to type it to submit it so my battle was uphill all the way.

When I started teaching Speech Communication at the college level I was asked to teach an online version of the course. Yes, you heard correctly – I taught a speech communication course online. And, that is when it hit me. We are all slaves to our computer, will our children be the same?

Oops, I can hear my BlackBerry humming. How did I ever live with out it? Oh, that was when I had a life.

No BlackBerry was injured during the writing of this column. Email Courtney at – an email account not connected to her BlackBerry, so be patient in waiting for a reply.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

Bluffton Today column, December 29, 2006

Ugh, I just read my column from January 1, 2006. In it I joked … “Here we are again, January 1. The day where we all reflect on the past, promise to do better next year and make a list of resolutions, most of which we never achieve. Well, that’s the story on my end at least.”

Ironically, I’ve proved myself right once again. I managed to achieve none – yes, you read correctly, none - of the 10 goals that I set for myself in 2006. My mission was to explore Bluffton and really get to know my new hometown. Interestingly, I feel like I made great strides in that arena, I just approached my task from a direction different than I had originally anticipated.

Despite my good intentions last year, I didn’t …
1. Participate in the Old Town Bluffton Planning
2. Have the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity. (Instead, I did devote my time and talent to other non-profit causes.)
3. Fish, crab, shrimp – catch something, anything, and cook it.
4. Break 100 on the golf course.
5. Follow through on my “pizza crawl” in an attempt to find a pizza join with Jersey routes.
6. Convince BT to join me in hosting an event so that Yankees and local Blufftonians can meet.
7. Meet more of my neighbors. (I did however meet a host of Blufftonians, new and old - just none who share a similar street address).
8. Put air in the tires of my bike and use it.
9. Invest energy in the Bluffton Dog Park idea.
10. And, I didn’t have the chance to go mud boggin’ along the May River.

So, rather than set myself up for another year of failure I decided that this year’s list would reflect all of the things that I will not accomplish in 2007. Here goes, I will not:

1. Eat pancakes and complain about the prices. Ah, who am I kidding – if I don’t like something, you’ll know it.
2. Joke (publicly) about Nascar, pecans, grits, or any other traditionally Southern fare or pastime.
3. Stand for another dismal voter turnout. I’m still determining how to make an impact in this area.
4. Pine for New Jersey and snow. (Joe bought me a snow globe for Christmas so, problem solved).
5. Let my bicycle and golf clubs continue to accumulate dust. (I will dust the garage and its contents at least once a month.)
6. Let the “bloggers” and “voxers” get under my skin.
7. Limit my Southern exploration to Bluffton and Hilton Head alone – Charleston and Savannah deserve some attention.
8. Underestimate the passion and good intentions of our local elected officials. (If you don’t believe me, attend a meeting!)
9. Well, I will try not to refer to New Jersey as home. Bluffton is home now.
10. Let another year go by so quickly.

Live it up Bluffton. Happy New Year!