Kittie Howard

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who's Naughty and Nice on Your Holiday List?


A roller-coaster year ends in a lovely home in a beautiful coastal North Carolina neighborhood. I'm grateful for our lifestyle. True, hard work got us here. But not without help. I'm grateful for parents who paid for my university education, bought my first car and otherwise helped a newly-married couple get established.

I'm grateful for Mr. H's university education, the cornerstone of his success. True, he worked hard. But not without help from his family.

 Actually, no one in either family accomplished anything without help. My father had his university degree when World War II ended. But with thousands of returning sailers, soldiers, and Marines entering the job market, his degree meant little. The G. I. Bill saved the day. Once my father obtained his law degree, the sky became the limit. Reasonably so! We didn't live in a mansion. We kids had our chores (for which I'm grateful, as I learned how to manage my time and do useful stuff.)

The G. I. Bill also provided Mr. H's brother the opportunity to obtain his Masters Degree in physics.

Increased education led to increased incomes -- taxed incomes that had to help offset initial financial investments. One has to pay one's way in life. (Except corporations like Gulf Oil. They had so many loophole exemptions the company didn't pay any corporate income tax last year.)

When I began working, only 10% of women had a university degree. I was set. That wouldn't be the case today. When I was a kid in Louisiana, a woman couldn't be a real estate agent because "that would take a job away from a man." That wouldn't be the case today. I'm grateful there are increased opportunities and more people can succeed on their own merits, without prejudice or bias. However, more progress is needed. You know what I mean.

As the fire in the fireplace flickers, I feel warm and secure . . . and wishful. Twenty miles from where I live are poverty grids beyond words. I wish I had a magic wand to put heat in homes, food on tables, and toys under Charlie Brown Christmas trees.

I wish I could bring in a properly run factory so more people would have work, not that a factory would be popularly received in this semi-rural area. Very commonly in the South, what was is how it should be.

With a limited education, there's scant opportunity for work, unless one gets lucky and lands a non-military job on the Air Force base in Goldsboro or the Marine Corps base in Jacksonville or with the county government or if the Federal government builds more roads or if one works for a mom-and-pop business, like shrimp or fishing boat.

I wish I could replete the oceans, rivers and streams. When shrimp here are in season, they're delicious. But they're small. What's called a "large-sized" shrimp in the market is actually an "average-sized" shrimp. Actually, I type this with a tinge of sadness. Not that long ago wild-caught shrimp labeled "large" were huge.

But what about those here who graduate high school and go on to get a college diploma?

Most don't return. They work in Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte and beyond. The sky's the limit. In today's different era, they dream of living in mansions. And many will. Some will buy a condo on the beach to return here on weekends.

Having said all of that, there are numerous pockets of enormous wealth here, where our home would be a guest cottage near a monster home. It's tucked away wealth. Massive homes sprawl along shorelines. On islands. The county built an air strip for homeowners, even abolished the tax on the sale of airplanes delivered here.

When the county imposed a water view tax, the rich didn't care. Nor did they care about the 2% food tax. Rich here means really rich. (Vermont has a food tax; Louisiana has a food tax. New Hampshire has a water view tax.)

I wish I had a magic wand so a woman I know can sell her house in Morehead City. About 1200 square feet, the white-sided house sits on a tree-lined street in a pleasant area, but from another era. If you stood on the roof of her house on a cloudless day and squinted hard, you might be able to see the ocean. The water view tax is killing her.

It's like there's an ocean between the haves and the have-nots.

For all of the incredibly nice people I've met here and elsewhere, I wish you the happiest of holidays.

For all of you in Blogville who've been so forgiving about my erratic posts and have stuck with me, I thank you from the heart and wish you the happiest of holidays.

For those on my naughty list, the ones who don't understand that no one climbs life's ladder without help, I wish you a holiday moment when you see, really see, that the holiday season is not about you.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Hub and I are hitting the road soon, Asheville for Christmas and Virginia for New Years, both with family and friends. Happy New Year, everyone! I hope all of life's blessings are yours in 2015 and beyond!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Welcome to North Carolina: Hello, Gorgeous; Link to Conquering Your Fears

Although we made numerous trips between Northern Virginia and Coastal North Carolina to get possessions in place, our North Carolina home was operational in June. No glitz or glam -- air mattresses, a coffee pot, kitchen and bath basics -- but life was good, made even better by the excitement of it all. There's a lot of truth to the refrain "Nothing could be finer than Carolina in the morning."

One such morning I awoke as dawn broke, slipped on my robe, and went to the back porch. After expanding one of the collapsable beach chairs we'd brought with us, I sat down, stretched my legs as I looked around -- at the sun-streaked sky, the lazy white clouds -- and inhaled a glorious breath of fresh air tipped with pine and the scent of salty ocean breezes that had wafted my way.

I exhaled as I sank deeper into the chair, then froze. The largest orange cat imaginable had crept out of the azalea bushes at the back of the yard.

No, wait, the mind reasoned. That's not a cat. That's a . . . that's a FOX.

I must have stirred, for he faced me.

"Hello, Gorgeous," I whispered, then smiled as he headed for the nearby thicket of trees. The shy, non-aggressive fox was young, probably returning from a night's hunt in our wooded, river-banked area.

I haven't seen him again. But one can always hope . . .

Vulpes vulpes or Red Fox is common in North Carolina and one of three species common in the U. S., the other two being the Kit Fox and the Swift Fox. The Red Fox's tail is about 70% as long as the head and body length. The shy, non-aggressive fox is thought to be monogamous, mates early January onward, and has pups late February-April. Average litter has five pups. The female, called a 'vixen', stays with the pups while the male hunts for food. When pups are around 10 months old, they're usually out on their own. The Red Fox is not endangered.  (Photo source: Wikipedia; for a YouTube video of five Red Fox in a Raleigh, NC, yard, go here.)

* * * * *

I thought I'd link this post to an article about overcoming one's fears. Shy and primarily nocturnal, the fox hunts mice, woodchuck, squirrels, eats insects, birds, and eggs and has been known to dig into uncovered garbage. (Note: Counter-legend, a fox seen during the day probably isn't diseased if there's a variety of habitat available, as there is here.)

The Red Fox has to be wily, but cautious, to survive. A large, aggressive feline can bring a young fox down. So, where is the line between caution and fear? For each of us, it's in a different place. We all have fears. That's the nature of being human.

A 20-year old adult probably wouldn't assess a situation as a 40-year old adult would, both generations either out of experience, fear or a combination of both. Experience tempers judgment; fear paralyzes judgment. A helpful link to overcoming fear is here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Welcome to North Carolina!

You have no idea how many times I've longed to resume blogging. But these past months have been such a whirlwind of activity there hasn't been time.

When last at the keyboard, around the end of March, the crud that had invaded my gorgeous body turned out to be a formidable foe that required kick-ass antibiotics and serious rest. (Your kind Get Well wishes also helped. Thank you!)

Back on my feet, Mr. H. and I listed what remained to be done prior to listing our Virginia condo for sale and got busy. Chipped fingernails and sore muscles later, the For Sale sign went up. (Gosh, but that sounds easy. It wasn't!)

By the 10th day on the market, we'd received four offers. We decided to go with the first offer because of the proposed lender's solid reputation. In a nutshell, we received our asking price, and the buyer paid all of the closing costs, a considerable savings to us.

Now that we had a closing date for the condo, the trips between Virginia and North Carolina began. Our house had been rented out. Floors needed to be replaced, walls painted, and so on.

These trips started out as fun, marking off Interstate exits, like Emporia and Pikeville, as Virginia's rolling terrain flattened into Eastern North Carolina's coastal landscape, but ended up being more like "Noooooooo, not another trip." If you've moved before, you know exactly what I mean!

Long story short: More chipped fingernails and sore muscles later, Mr. H. and I looked around our house, decided we were IN and relaxed with morning cup of coffee on the back porch. Have you ever heard pine trees "whispering" when a gentle wind blows? It's nice, very nice and, in that moment, when Nature and soul are one, going through all of That to get to This is worth it.

However, I don't know if we'll remain here. For tax purposes, we have to live in this house for two years. It's a lovely house that's turning into a loving home and is not a problem. The problems lie elsewhere. In the years since we last lived in North Carolina, the state and counties have charted paths that often conflict with the whispering pines. We don't want to move again, heavens, no! But I sometimes think North Carolina is a bit too high and tight for us.

Anyway, as life in North Carolina unfolds, I'm going to share my experiences with you, and we'll see where this takes us.

(It's nice, very nice to be back home in Blogville. Missed ya!)