20/20 Vision

Christmas 2019

Dear Family and Friends,

Here we are at the holidays and we are looking more like a New Year’s letter/card than Christmas. I think it snuck up on all of us so fast. I know this season of life has been tough but It’s time to stop and breath and contemplate and for us to practice gratitude. This is our second Christmas in South Carolina and I feel I’m less living in an out of body experience than last year but it still feels weird to me to be barefoot going to the mailbox in December. For Christmas I got new progressive lenses (yes I am now that old officially) and so I’m looking forward to seeing and reading clearly!  As we clocked in another season here, the boys are more settled in life here too even though I know they do miss Amherst.

The twins are juniors at Wando High School and Daniel is a freshman at the same school. All three Vote boys in one school means a place gets to know the Votes REALLY WELL. I never knew how hard having kids in high school were but here we are navigating through the nuances of southern culture being yankees and so I must constantly remind some that WE ARE STILL NEW HERE. Daniel has enjoyed being in Air Force ROTC this year. I personally love the program and it is the most pro-social entity that is in his life. I’m not a big military person but as someone who is said, “they are training to be ambassadors and representing our country, school etc. they must learn to be leaders and deal with the officer.” As hard as it is to iron that uniform it’s blessed him with some great opportunities. 

Garrison and Jonah are still working at Jack’s Cosmic Hot Dogs. Jonah’s been known to don the hot dog suit and wave down traffic. Jonah is taking 3D art and Art 2, still very talented in art but tinkering in culinary exploits. He has a steady girlfriend that I actually hired as a math tutor for Daniel so it’s win win for me. Garrison is taking Civil Engineering/Architecture, as well as AP Psychology and really hoping he leans into the creative field with his talent and he also spends time skateboarding. They both have their learners permits and we are slowly inching towards the time they will be drivers….but we are in no hurry. Over the summer we went to visit SCAD Savannah Collage of Art and I think they were inspired at the small art college environment. It’s hard to imagine where they will be in a couple of years, but I’ll keep my head in the sand for while longer with that!

Steven is enjoying the weather working from home and using his meat smoker. The amazing thing is that he’s lost almost 50 pounds and still going strong. We try to get out together to walk on the beach with our crazy Maisy dog and watch the dolphins feed off of our new favorite spot called Breach Inlet. It’s actually the location of a battle in the Revolutionary War and it’s kind of interesting to think about under all the sand what might lay underneath. Frequently when I come home he’s working with Maisy at his feet and it’s a good sight to see at the end of the day.

I am still working at the same place I have been last year as a teaching assistant in an alternative program that is residential for foster kids and psychiatric treatment facility. Yes it’s hard. This year I really wanted to move on, however it wasn’t God’s plan. I’m a little less “shocked” by it all and it’s super emotional at times when a good one leaves (the entire point…) and another one comes. There’s been some changes to the program that have made my job somewhat “better” so I opted to stay for the time being. I spent a lot of time this summer taking Maisy to the beach early in the morning and hanging at the dog park. 

We also enjoyed having Steven’s sister Joanne and her fiance Greg visit this summer. I’ve gotten very good and doing a small foot tour of downtown Charleston. Daniel really bonded with Greg as they are both motorheads and we took them to cars and coffee and Ladson market. We had seriously perfect weather and it was fun to have guests while we had time off. 

We also took some time to drive to PA and visit my parents before the school year got started and we practiced traveling with our “puppy” who is now 54 pounds of love. That practice came in handy when we evacuated for Doreen to the Asheville, NC area. We took advantage of having some time off, and visited Pisgah National Forest and Asheville. We definitely want to visit again and hopefully get to the Biltmore but we took in the mountain air and came home to just some palm branches on the ground. We are very grateful! One of the benefits for myself in writing this letter is to see the year behind me and count my days and people blessings….there are have been very hard times that don’t make the highlight reel on social media….yet still we are blessed. I am thankful that God placed us with great people both in church and in our neighborhood. We miss our friends and family if we can’t see you in person but we also pray that the Lord keep you in good spirits this Christmas season. Here’s to the 20/20 vision we have for the new decade!

Christmas 2019 2

A Year

It’s coming up to a year since we packed up our lives in Amherst, Massachusetts and moved south of the Mason Dixon….way down in the deep south of Charleston, South Carolina. I thought I would resurrect a bit of my blog or attempt to as we roll around the 12 month mark, just after July 4th that we moved here. Many of my lovely Facebook followers know much of what we do and what we’ve experienced to some degree because of course I post so many dog photos of our sweet puppy Maisy Honey Biscuit. The blog deserves better though and I’ve tried to write only to get busy with something and address other more pressing issues. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year because it feels like 3 months…maybe 6. It’s weird following once very close friends on social media and not having them to depend on as vital parts of my support network for life. This is the part of moving that can be very lonely and very isolating to anyone.

We’ve encountered a lot down here, some good some not so good. I’ve learned a lot. We think we know our country but one thing I want to say about the different dynamics of this country is don’t assume you know how it is from one part of the territory if you don’t actually LIVE there. People love to assume the south is all racist or that they are an uneducated bunch of yokels. True there is much history here, and much of it deeply painful and in your face….but also incredible stories of bravery and overcoming huge systemic obstacles. You can see and experience the ruins and remnants of those systemic obstacles once you step outside of the planned neighborhoods. If people are unwilling to acknowledge the bad with the good and the good with the bad, we will not be unified in anything other than our addiction to social media. Politics are so different here. In my opinion, less sophisticated. New people move here all the time, I have no clue who would be good on the school board. There’s stuff going on I honestly don’t have any interest in, and then there’s things that make my eyes roll but because I’m new and things will affect me I feel obligated to at least get the lay of the land. If we are going to do anything about education in the South we have to address POVERTY and RACISM. And it goes both ways. I’ve been told by a student that “I won’t learn from a white teacher.” Luckily the teacher and I having immigrant backgrounds from Italy and Greece basically taught the class that our ancestors came in more recent times and weren’t considered “white” post WW2 so that meant we were all going to learn about history as ONE people. Having that kind of attitude would be the biggest stumbling block in his life…

AME church
3 year anniversary of AME tragedy

My experience in my workplace has definitely also taught me some things. When I first started my job I didn’t receive any training on how to work with kids in trauma outside of what I knew from my last job- and that was spectacular knowledge comparatively. Trauma changes the brain physically to fight or flight  mode so that’s basically what I have witnessed. Lots of fighting and “flighting” meaning running sometimes out of the classroom only to be met by a large pond with an alligator in it. Honestly I was most stressed about driving on highway 17 here which felt like “death race 2,000” out to a rural area with the same red semi trailers every morning would tailgate me….it felt like the Devil on my hide. The kids were cute, and sweet and then the honeymoon period ended. I mean they are still cute and sweet but as I got to know them they I guess they felt safe enough to let loose a bit. There’s much I simply can’t post or speak about. I have heard stories of unbelievable cruelty and neglect that you only read about in the papers. I’ve seen the child who comes into DSS custody and into a new facility, scared and standoffish. I’ve tried to be the “Mom” figure in the class but if “Mom” uses a shock collar on a kid he’s probably a little wary of Moms… I can’t tell you how many hours of screaming children in an “intervention room” I’ve had to ignore. Psychologically I’m still recovering. I’ve endeared myself to several of the kids that in all reality are very “adoptable” children although I hate that word now…because what makes a child “adoptable” vs. not. People should never enter fostering thinking they are getting a cute little puppy….I’ve seen kids come and go and I was not prepared for some of their stories and for them to also leave halfway through the school year sometimes successful and sometimes not. The mobility of the foster care system is utterly tragic. Sometimes these kids know each other from other facilities. They move them around if they don’t have placement or their money runs out. I’ve tried to not bring my work “home” with me but I will say my church’s monthly First Wednesday services has carried me through to refresh myself mentally and spiritually for what God had in mind for us down here. 

Paper Quilt Project by Students inspired by Gullah quilts during slavery

When it comes to my own children it was a huge adjustment to a large 4,000 student body in high school for my older kids. Like minnows swimming upstream they have had to figure things out sometimes the hard way. They get kind of funny about cussing down here as if that’s the top priority….my question has been can a kid READ or does he cuss when frustrated? Choose your priority otherwise don’t say you want reform. People love to say how horrible the education is down here but in all reality I don’t think it’s “great” anywhere. There are brilliant teachers and awesome schools here. There is also dependance on technology that I think isn’t the way to solve educational problems…they are fun for the teachers to use though. The biggest factor for kids in poverty is having a PARENT advocate that is willing to walk the walk. Kids in the foster epidemic have NO ONE TO ADVOCATE FOR THEM. There might be an “advocate” but it could be the “baby sitter’s mother in law” that legally makes educational decisions for a child. We are in an epidemic as a society and any real reform or referendum is just robbing Peter to pay Paul. Or as I have witnessed systematic corruption and apathy simply because no one has raised the question, “is this really how you do this?” for fear of retribution. The school to prison pipeline is real. Prison reform needs to include educational reform or we are just putting a bandaid over a severed artery. In fact the school in the prison out scored many schools in our district. Think about that…kids in prison….out scoring regular schools. Consider becoming a Guardian Ad Liedum for a foster kid if you want to make a difference. 

With my own children in schools I’ve had to do my hardest advocating but also I’ve had to allow them to have consequences that they would have never incurred if we remained up north. Advocacy means knowing the law. They have thrived in some areas of their lives, and struggled in others. We are still adjusting and learning…but we’ve also had to depend on God in ways we never thought we’d have to. Still the opportunities here are plenty and the weather is lovely. When we moved here it was so hot and so humid my toes would sweat. I’ve actually gotten used to the humidity to a degree and actually kinda like it. However in the fall I started getting allergies and contracted pneumonia which if I don’t continue taking Flonase and Zyrtec I get post nasal drip that makes me super susceptible to upper respiratory infections. My kids have continued to wear sweatshirts in the hot 99 degree weather?? I don’t understand it but as Steven says, “Mad dogs and Englishmen lay in the sun.” We’ve enjoyed having the beach 20 minutes away and dogs are allowed off leash at 7am to 9am so I try to get there as often as I can now that school is out. I’m getting used to always having beach stuff in my car and sand.

I’ve honestly found the dog people at the dog run to be the most social and lovely group of people down here. Lots of dogs that are rescues and I love hearing their dog stories. Dixie dogs that stayed in Dixie. There’s even breeds of dogs I’d never heard of before. Boykin Spaniel is the SC state dog breed. Nothing prepared me for the amount of animal abuse however that I see here with high kill shelters and people not neutering or spaying their dogs. Mix that with letting hunting dogs roam Marion National Forest and using puppies for coyote or bear bait. We actually signed a contract that we would not use Maisy for baiting and we also would not use and “E” collar which is just another fancy word for shock collar. She was one of 10 found under a shipping container at 4-5 weeks and had worms pretty bad. We had to get her Giardia under control too but she’s pretty much gone from dust to glory and lives to bury things in our couch, LOVES to swim at the beach and has made our house feel like a home.

Maisy Honey Biscuits
Maisy Honey Biscuits 

Things that I’ve learned to love are the tree frogs, the sounds of the ponds like bullfrogs and sightings of alligators. Also occasional anoles that come out when I water my planters. One a cold day when the sun comes out there’s a rat snake that sheds its skin. I’ve learned about Egrets that came here in a hurricane from Africa and the sounds of a barn owl in the woods behind us says, “Whoo threw the shoe!?” The humidity comes and goes but I try to embrace it and the smell of the marsh which is an acquired liking. The fiddler crabs that scurry at low tide as you walk on the marshside nature paths at dusk are apocalyptic. We’ve witnessed an eagle get lunch and perch on our fence at 4am. My neighbor laughed when I told them we saw this and she said, “what were you doing up at 4am?” I love knowing when high tide is and low tide, full moon and you know the weather is going to change when it’s windy. The big open sky makes me look up at the stars and at times see the milky way above the palmetto trees. We’ve gone through one hurricane season and evacuation and apparently you don’t leave until Waffle House closes. We’ve enjoyed meeting new people and getting involved in our church although we still feel “new” even though we have been going for a year. Seacoast has helped us in many ways adjust here but it’s also been a lifeline of support when things have gotten sketchy. It’s a huge church but it’s not the only church of it’s kind in the south. Everyone goes to church. This is something many forget…and just because you go to church….here in the Bible belt, doesn’t mean people have received the Gospel. 

Ravenel Bridge
Ravenel Bridge in the distance

The things I miss terribly are my buddies at Grace United, Leticia’s Earl Grey tea and her music, my literary book club, Goberry, my swim partner and theology nerd walking friend Laura, my neighbors that would just walk into my home and have a glass of wine, the Taste of Amherst with asparagus fries and Flayvor’s aparagus ice cream. My Mom friends and the kid’s friends that they have had since they were three years old. I knew I would miss these things. This does not surprise me. It’s just weird seeing things like graduations and kids looking grown up from afar. 

We’ve had to combat those things that we miss with carving out new favorite things, being intentional about making friends….we’ve walked through the same things our teenagers have had to in forming new friendships and at times it’s not easy to break into already well formed circles of friendships, particularly in a very different culture and place. I’ve had to carve these sometimes lonely pathways out with greater dependance on God. Our first Thanksgiving felt odd but we had a smoked turkey and helped Seacoast serve 3,000 turkey dinners to North Charleston’s community. Christmas Eve, my son Daniel had a scratched cornea and we ended up in the ER so we had Tostino’s pizza rolls for dinner, then a fire broke out in my oven Christmas day so we ordered Chinese instead of cooking the traditional roast beef. That’s also when we got Maisy and she made it joyous to endure our first year here. In learning my new city’s history I am beginning to know the streets like Calhoon, and Meeting, or what North of Broad means. Steven is really into grits and I am not so much. I can do and awesome walking tour of Charleston at this point and I learn something new with each one I do. I think one of my favorite things is talking to the african american older people that are sassy and spiritual….they have no inhibitions about their faith. Learning about the Gullah Geechee people that are here descendants of slaves just willing to share their history and stories. There’s also money here. Money from all over the place. Money makes people do weird things. We’ve had to navigate this with our kids a culture that at times…values money over character or status symbols in clothing, gadgets and wheels over having loyal good friends. Trying to keep them humble and bursting their bubble occasionally by saying “We’re not that”. 

Flags and Dogs at Alhumbra Hall in Old Mount Pleasant

So as we come up to a year here, the 4th of July and the fireworks go off I thought it would be good to reflect and give myself a break at wanting to feel more “at home”. While I don’t think I’ll have neighbors that just walk into my house for tea or wine, this past week we’ve dealt with some “stuff” and I got a text from my neighbor…and just knowing that we have people here now…praying and checking in with us makes me feel like I am known and less of an outsider. In actuality I don’t think I’ll ever truly feel that way until I am in the presence of the Father. Maybe that is the purpose of sometimes having God uproot us and move us from time to time.


A Place Called Home

A Place Called HomeSo here we are in Charleston and my last blog entry was to announce our move. A LOT has happened since then and while I will be continuing my food blog NoPoliticsJustFood very soon I thought I would also write about the stages of moving for our family. Things did move pretty fast when we put our home in Amherst, MA of 14 years up for sale and I thought I had more time to see and do last minute things we’ve always wanted to do the reality was the whole moving and buying process was tedious and emotional, more than I thought. When I moved to Amherst 14 years ago I honestly don’t remember feeling as much disconnection but once I moved here I remembered that I was a Mom with young babes so that kept me busy and distracted. The things that got me through that time of my life was the fact I knew my neighbors before moving to the street, and I also benefited from the Amherst Family Center.

We struggled in Amherst to find a church home for a long time and and yet as we left our church family like we did when we left New York City with the biggest of hugs and tears.

Saying goodbye was hard. To my colleagues and work, to my close neighbors, to long time Mom friends and to friends that are and will always be like family to me. I knew it would be hard, but I’ve been on the planet long enough now to know that when you do something big like move farthest from where you grew up you just simply wouldn’t do it if all the negatives came to light right away. I’ve never lived in the south so it’s a completely a different culture here and one night I said to Steven it feels like we’ve moved to another country. He’s done that moving from Australia to NYC and he agrees and although moving from Australia to New York City seemed like a snap all those years ago I still am mystified that he left such a beautiful country to pursue a relationship with me and a career in photography. Steven came with a bag of CDs, some cameras and a suitcase of clothes. Needless to say this move was a LOT different!

We actually had a nightmare of an actual move. Many of my FB friends know about what went down but I can assure you I only highlighted some of the details. This actually took a lot of emotional real estate up for me because it was so stressful. I can’t thank enough my church family for supporting us by watching our kids when we were dealing with movers at 4:30am. I think Wendy Roszazza is a saint. I keep thinking of things to give her, but there’s simply nothing large enough other than to pray for her blind and deaf dog to never go missing ever again in his life. Watching my kids say goodbye to their friends was utterly heartbreaking but when I started driving away the morning of our departure sobbing in Ludlow Massachusetts because it was all too real my son rubbed my back and said, “You can do this Mom…I’ll do it with you.” That’s when I knew my stepping out in faith was worn on my sleeve because I don’t know if my kids realized how much we had decided to allow God to uproot in our lives. If anyone does gardening you’ll know there are different kinds of plants and some take to the soil quicker than others. There’s a palm tree in my yard and I haven’t a clue how to take care of it…I guess that’s what google’s for!

PCH8During the drive down to Charleston we weren’t expecting to be on the road on the fourth of July but we took a drive down the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. We stayed in probably the worst roach infested motel which my kids thought we had lost our marbles and we explained many families actually LIVE in motels like this so shush up and enjoy the free bacon at breakfast. I anointed the bed free of bed bugs and once I was in bed I only wore flip flops to the bathroom…I encouraged everyone to do the same. The entire experience was forgotten about once we started the journey up the mountains and meandered through the most spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley from the national park. I knew it would be while before I’d see mountains again. That also tugged at my heart because as much as I love the ocean, I also love the mountains. We live in an amazing country with diverse topography and what better way of spending the fourth of July than driving through a national park? I did get to see two huge black bears that Steven had to stop his car to let cross the road…we also stopped at the peak elevation and went to the museum exhibit about the making of national park. Many families were displaced, evicted from their land to build the park which I found particularly tragic with the means and propaganda in how they did it. That’s a whole other blog post someday. The fourth of July being a weird one I was all worried my kids were not having a good time and we would miss fireworks etc. But when I returned to our hotel with take out burgers a couple of rowdy southerners sitting on the hotel patio asked if my kids wanted to light off some roman candles as they pointed to huge pile of fireworks that they were planning on setting off…the look on my kid’s faces says it all. 

We arrived in Charleston and closed on our home, and of course waited a couple days for our moving truck to deliver our stuff. It’s weird sitting in an empty new house. Regardless of how nice a home is, the niceness or newness doesn’t make it home. Making any place home take investment, relationship building and personalizing. We sat on the floor one afternoon during a rainstorm and joked that we liked not having Wifi because our kids talked to us. Upon our truck delivery many of our boxes were crushed, and as I said to my Mom one box is like Christmas and another is like devastation. Sometimes I open a box and think…why did I bring that? And some things I thought…eh I don’t know but last minute it got tossed on the truck. Like the wicker love seat I sit on every morning listening to Mr. Greenjeans. We’ve unpacked the essentials and it’s taken a while but we are functional but not organized or nor decorative. My theory was if we can get the kitchen functional at least I can make a meal etc. It’s amazing to see what we actually “need” in life and it’s no surprise it’s a LOT less than we seem to carry around all our life. Upon coming down here we learned that our next door neighbor’s home caught fire and luckily she and her 90 year old mother are safe, their house is severely damaged as well as their belongings. She will be displaced for months maybe over a year. I am sure losing her favorite next door neighbors and her home must be hard. I keep thinking about those families that had to be uprooted to build a national park for all of “us” to enjoy. Devastation, disconnection and displacement comes in different ways but I’m sure the emotions are very similar. PCH2

We are enjoying exploring our new town or city- the people are friendly. I feel like I’m wide eyed and a deer caught in headlights…so of course I say, “I’m new here…” and at Trader Joe’s I got a free South Carolina bag! The familiar products is comforting for us all. It’s true Charleston is hot and humid. My new favorite place in this house is my screened in porch. Early in the morning, having coffee and just listening to the tree frogs is just soul healing. There’s one that hangs out behind our speakers and so I named him Mr. Greenjeans. That tells you what generation I’m from if you know who Mr. Greenjeans actually IS.  I’m actually acclimating to the 90% humidity, constant thunder rumblings of early mornings and weathering through the hot beating sun with a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. It’s probably going to be my trademark “look”. I’ve seen people wear jeans though in 98 degree humid days…I think are they insane or just aliens from another planet? The Moms here dress very feminine and I ponder how and why do women wear high heels to drop off their kids to camp? Will I conform to Lilly Pulitzer preppy dresses and large fern printed caftans? Probably not. That’s the great thing about living in a place that you swim in the opposite direction for fourteen years…you get used to sticking out like dog’s bollocks and you don’t give a rip. In Amherst people love the au natural look and honestly I appreciate that as there’s no pressure to look like a botox babe making a dive for a case of peach bellini at Trader Joe’s.

PCH4We’ve made some connections at our new church Seacoast but it’s very large and overwhelming. The second week we went we lost the boys because apparently there’s a lot of Pokemon stops at Seacoast. The boys were given the opportunity to go to teen summer camp which was an absolute blessing because they came home with instant friends. I’ve soldiered through registering the boys for school and announcing that there is a strict dress code as well as summer reading they need to do. Jonah thought I was bluffing and I had to show him the sheet of paper to prove that YES he will need to use his brain this summer. It seems like things are falling into place somewhat, however we know it’s not going to feel like home overnight. For years we’ve lived in a place that valued community and intimacy and there’s glimmers of that here, but it definitely is different. Those of my friends know that we are gifted in hospitality- so it only took a week of me being here to invite another Mom and her three boys who moved here last month over for ice cream. When you move to town with kids you need emergency contact numbers. Moving over summer vacation for kids is hard regardless of the kid. God is good, and he has shown us many things in this process and provided for our needs in every capacity including a connection here and there just when one of us has needed it most. We do miss our friends dearly and our neighbors (maybe not the college drunk neighbors) and of course the funniest thing about moving to this neighborhood is most of our neighbors have some tie to New England and are die hard Patriots and Sox fans so I guess that’s a good start in feeling at home here.


So my lucyingrace blog will soon become a little more active as I take to writing more so I hope more of my friends will subscribe to that and I’m excited about getting back to my NoPoliticsJustFood blog with some southern twists and I look forward to cooking from my new southern cookbook Smoke&Pickles my Uncle Chef Tim and Marcie sent me. So be sure to subscribe and share!

Goodbye for now ya’ll-



The Great Migration South. The Vote Family is Moving to Charleston, SC.

Votes are movingFor the past three years we’ve pondered making a huge change for our family and this year we have decided to take the plunge and a huge step of faith and relocate to Charleston, SC.

How hard it is for me to write this, but it’s also exciting and a new adventure. Several people have asked us “Why? Why Charleston? WHY South Carolina?” After all it’s as red of a state as Massachusetts is Blue.

Firstly I want to say that Amherst and Massachusetts have been good to us. We moved here 14 years ago when the twins were 20 months old and I was 8 months pregnant with my youngest. I quit my full time job in New York City working in fashion to stay home with the boys and Steven was jet setting all over doing photography. We used to come up to Amherst to visit friends and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. When I found out I was pregnant again after twins I needed my life to work with littles and a dog and cat while my husband traveled a lot for work. With the emergency diagnosis of my son’s heart defect, neighbors and the Amherst community raked our yard, provided childcare and strangers dropped off meals. This place will always always have a tender spot in my heart. I spent many years here going to playgroups, meeting other Moms and digging into the community and over the years these are still my dearest friends and raising my kids along side theirs reminded me of my own childhood. My neighborhood block party, the Taste of Amherst, the fair on the Common and touring the local farms have been some of the treasured things that make living here awesome. It’s really a great place to raise kids. I am rich in friends and my church family at Grace United will be the hardest people to say goodbye too. It seems crazy to move your kids at this stage of their life, high school and middle school. So I thought I’d explain a little bit as to why we are making such a big move.

Over the years I’ve had to figure out how my son would navigate secondary school here and as time went on and programs in the high school were cut, the curriculum became more and more inaccessible. It became clear to me that the local high school has become not an option that I have any confidence in to actually graduate my son with a diploma and transition him into his next step of life with a career that he will be able to support himself. My kids have gotten the BEST early education in preschool and elementary, and middle school (which I dreaded this stage) actually was a positive experience for all my kids. I love how Amherst values all kids and treats them with dignity. Again, Amherst has been good to us in this respect.

However, there are many ways that I could see that our high school would not serve the needs of my kids in other ways. So rather than pursue homeschooling and private (something we couldn’t afford) or sending my special needs son to a boarding school miles away we looked for public schools that had the programs he needed. We also want to be in a place where they would someday be able to be gainfully employed. We found an excellent high school that has a plethora of academics and vocational choices that actually feeds into the local economy. Nothing is ever perfect but we were happy with what we saw when we toured researched the schools. The vocational training is on the same premises as the regular high school and so, my son will have access to a full curriculum of academics with special needs services and vocational skills that will hopefully transition him into adult life with more potential to support himself and be independant. Bonus is the older kids were excited at the opportunities they would have and honestly once they saw the school we didn’t need to pull hairs to convince them of this move despite having the best group of friends back here in Amherst. 

Lower taxes is a huge component. 

As the years have passed our land taxes have increased yearly by 1- 2% so, after 14 years of living here our taxes have nearly doubled. The value of our homes have gone up which is great but that also has a double edged effect on the cost of housing. It just is unsustainable to contemplate this for very long and so, as we want to have some saving for our kids before they go to college this is one way we will be saving by moving south. Again, there’s a premium cost involved for living in Amherst and as the schools have found out in their investigation as to why their enrollment is dropping I really think this is one of the biggest factors. Why pay high taxes when you can live in cheaper towns and choice your kids into the schools?  

The weather outside is frightful!

Let’s admit it. April 19th is ridiculous a date to snow. I never thought I’d say my bones get cold but I’m over winter and seasonal affect disorder is real. For years Steven has struggled with winter here and it’s taken some tolls on overall health. We want a healthier lifestyle and spend more time outdoors without our eyelashes freezing off. I actually love snow, but I like maybe one month of it with Christmas in the middle but this year I thought I actually might go insane with the cold and snow. Steven being an Aussie has had his fill of New England winters. We’ll come and visit the snow and be happier for it. Meanwhile I won’t miss snow days and shoveling. I will miss skiing and sledding and drinking hot cocoa with neighbors. I will miss white Christmases. We do gain the ocean and the beach. This is something that my husband and I both love and so we are happy to live out our dream of living closer to the ocean and having a healthier outdoor lifestyle year round WITH SUNSCREEN. When we lived in NYC we spent most weekends at the beach at least on a Sat or Sunday. We might even take up fishing!

The college town.

Like I said, I love Amherst but I have grown weary of the politics of a small town. It feels like the center of even national politics is played out here and I honestly want to go about my life and not have political canvassers come to my door every month asking to put signs in my yard or asking for campaign donations. The GREAT thing about this town is that people are SO passionate about their opinions they spend a lot of time and energy discussing these opinions. The BAD thing about this town is that people are SO passionate about their opinions they spend a lot of time and energy discussing these opinions.  I’ve served on Town Meeting, I’ve learned a lot about governing a small town and I also am looking forward to moving to a larger city type atmosphere being the New Yorker at heart. I also am happy not to live in a college town where the Universities set the tone and economy of many things. I’ve enjoyed MANY things about the Universities such as the Umass dining halls, the programs for the community and the plethora of babysitters in our early years with young children. I’ve enjoyed the local Jones Library, The Amherst Family Center and the local pools and parks and there are MANY great reasons for living here. 

#1 Tourist destination two years in a row

We are excited to be a part of a growing and thriving economic community that includes the art community of Charleston. Steven has always had a fascination for the deep South, loves BBQ and really I think moving to a new part of the country will inspire us both to do new things. I plan on writing more on my blogs both about faith and food and Steven plans on doing more art photography just because we are at heart creative people. I plan on finding work down there and Steven has always worked remote and works from home. There are pluses and minuses of working from home. Charleston is a city and we are excited to be a part of the #1 tourist destination in the world for two years in a row. When our friends come and visit us they will know why we made the big move.

We will miss New England tremendously. My neighbor who is a retired geologist and traditionally makes ice cream for our neighborhood block party stopped at my house, jumped out of his car in a panic and asked me…WHERE ARE YOU GOING?! When I told him, he replied with a big smile…”Who will keep the neighbors in line?”. My next door neighbor and I chatted over the fence and with tears in her eyes she said, “Can I come with you?” She’s a child psychologist that probably came up with new therapy methods based on her observations of the Votes over the last 14 years. My dearest friends that I live close to and my church family- it’s really it’s like cutting off and arm or a leg. This is HARD stuff and my heart is hurting but also I’m excited for new beginnings. I know that we are called to a new place, a new phase in our life and a new community. So forgive me if I am a reclusive crying cow for a bit. With our dear dog dying of Lyme in March we took that as sort of a divine sign to get our house on the market on time for April break. Our home is under contract and we managed to find a home we think is the spot for our new abode while we were in Charleston over break. It is quite an undertaking to have a home on the market with three teenagers, and then again it’s quite an undertaking to find a place to live 922.5 miles away in under a week with teenagers. 

We now are in the process of figuring out all the details. I honestly don’t know where to start.

This has been a three year process that required my faith to dig in deep, and now I need to dig deeper still. Steven and I were listening to Tim Keller preach about Abram’s faith and even though the sermon was preached many years ago it felt like it was meant for us right now. When Abram obeyed God, he didn’t have a clue if it would work out the way he expected. He trusted and took that step of faith into the unknown. We will be in the area until the last week of June and hope to be at our new place the first week of July.




Silence isn’t Indifference

It’s been a long time since I have actively posted on my blog. For a host of reasons I’ve had to put much of my life on hiatus when it comes to writing. There’s always the case of how much to post on a blog regarding personal things especially with your kids. I don’t want to overshare and overstep those boundaries of confidentiality, trust and relationship with my teens so while I have continued to write sporadically for my own therapeutic means I haven’t been great about maintaining the blog.

I think we can all say that this past year has been….well….interesting when it comes to blogs, opinions and current events including the election last year. I thought I would write a little bit about back to school and the changes as my kids entered their freshman year of high school and my youngest started middle school. Gulp! When I saw this picture of my son it really made me remember this awesome trip we took down the coast of California. My kids were and still are full of beans.

photograph by Steven Vote

 I can remember my first day of middle school in Pennsylvania and maybe that’s a good thing or maybe not. This world is a completely different place to navigate as a parent of teens. My high schoolers didn’t seem as anxious as I was to start high school and I actually am slightly jealous of their ability to just go with it and have a sense of humor about the first day of school rather than my 14 year old self spending time in the bathroom dealing with an upset stomach. 

There’s been some anxiety with my middle schooler for very justifiable reasons, but I am actually impressed once again that he overcame and by the end of the day he was just FINE. 

I try my hardest to not have my kids pick up on my own anxiety but there are moments when my son’s wise words impress me to acknowledge that he understands more than what I give him credit. Why Mom is having a “freak out”….and “it’s going to be okay Mom” in a text as he waits for the bus.  Whose parenting who here? 

This parenting thing isn’t for the faint of heart. We are anxious! We are freaking out even more on the inside than on the outside! The world is a crazy place. We are the first generation that allows Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to give us advice and dinner recipes as well as compare our parenting with each other on a massive scale. Seeing that other parts of the country has been in school for almost a month makes the anticipation of the first day of school so much worse for me. I love seeing the many Facebook friends dropping their kids off to college. I know the next four years will fly by. But I also know people don’t have a tendency to post on Facebook or Instagram their their kid is struggling with anxiety and has cut his toenails down to the nubs or that their teenager is struggling with substance abuse desperate to have them stay in school. At surface level, everyone’s life is Facebook fabulous but as a parent I know that real struggle happens behind closed doors and there’s blood, sweat, tears and sometimes poop literally hitting the fan.

There’s statistics that state the as a result of teens being connected ALL THE TIME that they actually are more likely to be anxious and depressed. So if the kids are stressed, the parents probably are as well especially if they are as connected as we are. Now many people know my love for social media- it’s actually enabled me to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world. But I also acknowledge the societal issues that come with this technology age as well. It is nearly impossible to manage it all and not feel overwhelmed or when someone spouts their opinion on Facebook the whole world gets up in arms or the shame and finger pointing that will come to you if you have a differing opinion. I’m learning that myself. If people really want to know my opinion on something, get to know me first. There are reasons why I hold the views that I have and don’t ever assume that the greater rhetoric out there on any given subject is something I subscribe to.

Is it kind, is it necessary and is it the Truth?

As my kids have entered the higher grades and teen scene I have had to tell them…you know you don’t have to answer, talk or give a retort ALL THE TIME. You do have the right to remain silent, opt out or resist non violently. People forget that silence isn’t the same thing as indifference. In this growing age of knee jerk reactive times I feel more and more the need to teach this skill to my teenagers. You do have the right to remain silent, for what you say will and can be held against you….so make sure what comes out of your mouth counts. And at times, it is more powerful to be silent. Saying, “no” is okay.

I am happiest and most engaged when I can have a conversation with a dear friend, especially those that I differ on a host of subjects and issues maybe very differently when I can share a meal, a cup of coffee or a laugh about something. I benefit from those kind of friends and grow as a human being. Fortunately or unfortunately my closest friends in the world are actually NOT of Facebook or Instagram. Those friends of mine are so worthy of spending time I actually have to see them face to face or call them on the old school telephone. They are the ones saying I’m a good Mom, everythings going to be FINE and I can hear their laughter when I tell them some of my craziest thoughts. So this back to school season it’s back to reality but it’s also back to writing and less time on Facebook.

Who knows maybe I’ll post a blog or two in the process.