Southern Girl Rule #63: An Iron is Essential.

 

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Ironing pillowcases for the guest room

I have a love-hate relationship with my iron.  Okay, it’s mostly a hate relationship, I find clothing in particular difficult to iron (which is why I have a steamer for those), not sure if it has to do with being a leftie or my lack of patience.  I do enjoy the zen of ironing a linen napkin or tea towel, but those items are about the only ones I feel confident tackling.

So why am I ironing pillowcases? My guest room will soon be occupied, and while I would clean and iron for any guest, my mama and daddy are expected in tomorrow. Hence the effort with the pillowcases. It might be a generational thing, but mama always seems to have a stack of ironing. Me on the other hand, if I can get it out of the dryer fast enough and hung, that’s good enough for me.

A few wrinkles have never bothered me, but I clearly remember my mother’s dismay if I tried to leave the house for school in something that needed a little ironing. I still will hear her voice when I’m getting dressed. I think,  Is this passable or does it need ironing? I suppose it has saved me from going about town like a bag lady. I have often chosen what to wear based on what doesn’t need ironing.

You would think I would invest in clothing made from synthetics that don’t require ironing, but I have an affinity for natural fibers, particularly cotton and linen, the two types of cloth that require the most ironing. Ironic I know.

As I worked on the pillowcases, I realized it’s not about the wrinkles, but did I put in the effort, did I represent myself and my family in the best possible light.? The answer should be yes. Ironing is a way to show you care enough to make the effort. Even if your results are less than professional (Don’t look too closely at my work).

So despite it being up there with vacuuming, my least favorite chore, I will press on, pun intended!

 

Lessons From the Tide

 

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Low tide

 

I was driving down Longpoint Road today which crosses the marsh in several spots. It was high tide and the water encroached on the road causing the cars to spray water up onto each other and it got me thinking how the ebb and flow of the tide is much like the ebb and flow of time, history, and our personal lives.

When the tide is high we float and flow, think the roaring 20’s, record stock markets and reaching pinnacles in our careers. Those moments are great but hold on to your hat, the tide will turn and ebb, taking you down to the mud and reveal what lies beneath, think The Depression, the recession and days where nothing seems to go right.

While we may crave the high tide moments, I think we grow more from the low tide moments. When we are down to the mud, we can see what’s buried there with us. We see what needs to be fixed or addressed, but we also find nuggets of wisdom and treasures to carry with us as we rise again, think oysters and artifacts.

The biggest takeaway for me from this musing on the tide was it will always turn around. Enjoy the high points while they last, but don’t expect life to stay there. Learn all you can during the low points and know that if you hang on things will head back up.

I love this South Carolina Lowcountry life, I find inspiration every day from this beautiful place. At the moment I think I’m somewhere between low and high tide, I have learned I can’t turn it until it’s good and ready, but I can roll along with it and make the best of whatever stage it has me in.

In The Final Quarter

 

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Unpacking the Fall decor

It dawned on me today that we have just entered the final quarter of 2017 and on one hand, I can barely comprehend how fast this year has gone and on the other, what a crazy year it has been and I am ready to set my sights on 2018.

In the crazy that swirls around us these days, it is nice that certain seasonal traditions like college football, the local pumpkin patch opening and the leaves of the sycamore in the front yard turning color give continuity and reassurance that not all is lost.

Like the last quarter in a game, this is the time to make the most of what we have left of 2017, time is a-ticking. There is still a chance that the post-game analysis will be different than if the year ended today.

This had been a hectic and overwhelming last few months for me. I moved to a new school with a big chunk of the old faculty and we have been adjusting to a new building, new rooms, still getting arrivals of furniture and supplies and a new curriculum. It has been interrupted by a hurricane, with luckily minimum effects and personally, I have struggled through several weeks with a virus followed by a bout with pneumonia, only missing 4 days of work total, because I am stubborn like that and I absolutely hate writing sub plans when I don’t feel well, okay, actually anytime. Oh, yeah, I am writing a novel as well.

Despite all the setbacks now in the last quarter of my teaching career, I find myself re-energized and excited for this school year and the next few years.  I know things will settle into normal, although I’m beginning to realize normal is elusive and perhaps it should be.

Not that we need chaos and upheaval on a continuous basis, It is the times of change that lead to growth and give us renewal. Thank goodness for the seasons of the year, they give us a way to embrace those changes. So while it may seem rather shallow to some, (certainly not any southern girls), to change out the decor and dishes with the seasons, perhaps it’s just a way to symbolize and signal to us that it’s time to refresh, re-set and make the most of the season to come as we reflect and learn from the season that has come to a close. No worries, last season will come again, put it behind you and look forward.

It’s the last quarter of 2017 Y’all. Make your game plan and execute the best you can. There will be things that will bring you down, be ready with your best defense. Then get back up and get back to that line of scrimmage, who knows you might make a touchdown or a field goal. You may lose, but do it on your own terms. Until Midnight December thirty-first give it all you’ve got!

 

In the Stack

 

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My latest book stack. In the foreground are the three I just read, in the background are my anticipated reads.

 

I’d like to thank my book club for bringing diversity into my reading life. It might surprise you to learn that as a writer of southern women’s fiction I am a huge fan of reading mysteries, and I can trace that all the way back to my Nancy Drew days. Right now my favorite stories on the telly as they would say in my favorite genre are British mystery series like Father Brown, Miss Fisher, and Midsomer Murders.

While I have also read a ton of women’s fiction over the years, the book club I’m in has brought before my eyes, dystopias, biographies, dark fiction, historical fiction and the list goes on. I am richer for it, not just as a writer but as a human. After all one of the great joys of books is exploring new worlds, ideas, and possibilities we would never encounter in our everyday lives.

Books or at least pamphlets, inspired schisms in the church, revolutions in countries and other world-changing events. I’m not saying anything that earth shattering is in my current stack, but from every book I read, fiction or non-fiction I gain a different perspective on humanity and expand my own empathy towards others and ideas on living.

No matter high-tech this world becomes or how pervasive social media becomes, books will have an enduring place. Social Media has the power to spread messages, true or false in lightning time, but the messages are just the headlines, not the in-depth examination of the human condition or revolutionary ideas. Books are where we can explore and understand. A book must hold up to much more scrutiny as to the validation of its facts and examination of its ideas.

We, humans, have a primal need to express our thoughts and communicate our ideas and we use a wide variety of art and media to do so. To me, books are the most important form we have. The one invention of the printing press centuries ago has allowed words and ideas to be shared through time and we have not stopped sharing words around the world since.

No matter if your stack sits on a bedside table as mine, or in a queue on a digital device, keep stacking and keep reading, you will be richer for it.

The Power of a Deep Clean

 

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A screen shot of a Facebook Post I wrote this week

Overall, our brush with Hurricane Irma was way more than expected here in the lowcountry, but thankfully my personal property was unscathed apart from a fence board dislodged and some minor branch damage.

In the days prior I had taken care to drag in all the plants, patio furniture, grill and the decorative items from the front and back of the house into the garage. So the day after the storm seemed the perfect time to drag out the power washer and clean the house, driveway, and patio while they were in a bare state.

For me, there are some chores I find exceptionally satisfying to complete. Primarily because the effort is immediately apparent and the results last for more than a day or two. Lawn mowing and power washing are two such chores. So I happily spend a few hours getting wet and dirty as my house and pavements were stripped of their layers of grime, pollen and green growth that clings to the surfaces hidden much of the day in the shadows.

I watched as the spray removed the layers to reveal surfaces renewed back to their original states and of course the writer in me thought about how this was a metaphor for renewal in our lives.

Renewal is a theme that has run through my thoughts on a regular basis. I love that we can choose to renew our lives by taking stock, re-evaluating and then making changes, big or small. Over time we gather our own grime; fears, drudgery, unhappiness, dissatisfaction etc. But we can choose to wash it away in a sense.

We can change careers, leave toxic relationships, relocate, renew commitments, make deeper connections with the people who matter in our lives, seek out education or guidance. We have the power to power wash our lives and I strongly believe we should do this on a regular basis.

We may accumulate jetsam and flotsam as we move through life, but we don’t have to carry it with us. When I spend too many days feeling like I’m chasing the wind and putting out fire after fire, I know it’s time to take stock and get myself back on track. I find that when I take the time to clean up my life the clarity of where I’m going next brings a peace and purpose

So I highly recommend power washing your life, no hose required.

 

Awaiting Irma’s Impact

 

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water supply including the fur babies

School has been canceled and I gratefully slept in this morning. For over a week Irma has been clamoring for my attention and I began by evaluating what I had in my hurricane supply kit and what needed to be replaced or supplemented. As she maintained her ferocity I made contact with my go to place in the upstate to make sure the fur babies and I would be welcome. I made a list of the things I would need to pack to take with and what I would need to to do in the house and yard, some of which is on the agenda today,

On Social media, people are already grumbling about the fact we didn’t have school today, and while I might have preferred working a least a half day today so it would be one less day to make up, I again am grateful for the time to secure the classroom yesterday afternoon and have a two day window to take care of the house, yard and evacuate if needed.

We are still twenty-four to thirty-six hours for knowing the actual impacts to expect, but the track last night and this morning indicate my evacuation place will get the same or possibly more impacts than the lowcountry. So I will press on with prep and be glad to be busy and not glued to the TV for every minor shift in track and wind. A decision to leave will have to be made by Sunday morning, regardless the house and yard will need to be prepared.

Having lived in the lowcountry for thirty-one years I am now a hurricane veteran, my first being the devastating Hugo in 1989. I was a victim of the evacuation debacle of Floyd, had a crazy diverted route home from Mathew and have hunkered down at home for others. So I know it is better to be over-prepared and overly cautious with things like canceling school. Storms will do what they do, no matter what science tells meteorologists with all their models. A last minute jog either direction or a sudden slowing down or speeding up is always a possibility and can drastically change the circumstances for impact.

By Tuesday the tale of Irma in the lowcountry will be written and we will know what the impact is. Somehow I don’t believe it will be as life altering as Hugo. Those of us who lived here for Hugo describe life in terms of before and after Hugo, much like the country does for 9/11. The images of trees snapped like toothpicks, the crumpled metal roof of the house I lived in balled up like a tissue tossed on the street, the water mark on the wall about as tall as me and the coating of pluff mud on most of my belongings are still as vivid today as twenty-eight years ago. I imagine Texas will view life that way with Harvey being the divide in time.

Hugo taught me one thing that has stayed with me, things are just things. If I have my family, including the fur babies and we are safe and healthy, then I have everything I need. Houses and stuff can be replaced, pictures are a sad loss, but the losing of them doesn’t erase memories. So if you are in the path of Irma it may impact your life with inconveniences and problems but as long as you have your life and those of your loved ones, you are blessed beyond measure.

 

 

Letters Impactful as Words

 

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Just a few of my monogrammed items

A very funny post has been circulating among my friends and I am sure a much wider audience poking a little fun at the Southern girl’s penchant for monogramming. It has a video of a very romantic proposal and the woman begins to imagine what her new monogram will look like, only to realize it will, unfortunately, spell out the word DIE.  So naturally, the bride to be, declines and runs for the hills.

I would never walk away from true love over a monogram, but I might decide to become a singular letter girl. This entertaining post got me thinking about monograms and letters in general and how they can be powerful even when they don’t actually spell a word.

For example, with a last name that begins with A, I quickly realized in school I was bound to be first on the class list most years. I always felt sorry for the Q-Z crowd. As the shortie kid who was always last in the class picture line-up, it was nice to know I would be first in some things.

License plates are another place those three ubiquitous letters that some computer randomly selects can be a happy accident or an unfortunate one. One set of plates I had here in South Carolina began with the letters BTK. During that time the news about the BTK killer our in the Midwest was all over the news and it really bothered me to have those letters on the back of my car. My next set was not much better, DRK. Really!? I am not a negative or sinister person. It’s almost enough to make a girl open up her monogrammed wallet for vanity plates.

Acronyms for organizations or programs can also be unfortunate. In my primary field of education, this happens all the time.  Right now we have a data reporting requirement called our SLO’s (we say SLOW) It is a time-consuming data entry process done three times a year. We also had a student assessment program a while back called, SCRAPI (we called it scrappy and the trainer was not amused).  There are some good ones out there, GRITS, Girls raised in the South for example.

I have written several posts over the years about monograms and I am unashamed of my enjoyment in them. Somehow a monogram elevates an object, plus it makes it easy to keep track of your stuff. So poke all the fun you want, I will be happy to respond on my engraved note cards.

 

Permission to Pause

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My last post was all about how as an educator, August is a month where my life is annually eclipsed by the setting up of a new school year. This year has been an eclipse of totality as I have moved along with many of my colleagues into a brand-new school to alleviate our community’s overcrowding. It has been exhausting and exhilarating and I am truly happy with the decision, but the extra work this year has caused me to examine the pace I’ve been keeping and make some adjustments.

Once I formulate a goal and make plans, I admit it is hard for me to adjust course. However the older I get, the better I become at flexibility and recognizing the need to pause once in awhile. We all need periodic check-ups to see if how we are spending our time and effort align with our values and our long-term goals. Life has also taught me that there are seasons where one area of our life must have the lion’s share of my attention.

I’m at that place now. I had planned when I started publishing books to publish two a year while working a full-time and a part-time job outside of writing.  I could be super woman, bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan and maintain, family, friends, a Southern Living pictorial worthy home and garden . . . I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

I am loving this fourth book I am working on, it is challenging me as a writer as the story takes place partially in a time frame prior to mine and deals with some serious matters for my characters. I had planned to have it come out right before the holiday season this year, but I realized in my current August eclipse, I would have to finish it with a rush job and that did not sit well with me.

The volume of my published work will grow over the next few decades naturally, I don’t need to rush it. Some years I will publish two a year, some years just one and that’s okay. At some point, writing will become my full-time work and then setting quantity goals might be more realistic.

By pausing I have room to breathe and give my story the attention it deserves. It will be ready by next spring and I will not lose my sanity in the process. If only I could pause the housework!

An Annual August Eclipse

 

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Protective gear ready for the solar/lunar event

Here in the zone of totality eclipse mania is reaching epic proportions. Locals have been warned to fill up the gas tank and stock the groceries as if a hurricane was approaching. Traffic is going to be a nightmare and I have planned to stay close to home. In the first two days of the school year, I was mandated to teach a lesson on the eclipse to prepare students midst all the back to school lessons that are so important for establishing routines for the classroom. I am excited, it is cool to be in a place with the optimum effects from this space phenomenon.

It is ironic to me that it is occurring in August because as an educator starting my 25th year of teaching every August has an eclipse in the zone of totality. It lasts way more than two minutes, more like four weeks.

Even when I can set up my classroom in July and get some planning done ahead of time, I still find that a new school year eclipses my life to the point of total darkness. I sometimes forget to pay bills, although one year I accidentally paid bills twice. House work and yard work is put on hold until I can’t ignore it any longer and then what gets done is the minimum. I realized last night I was out of hair towels, so a towel wash will happen today amid my lesson planning and sorting my kids into spelling groups (Yes it is a Saturday and I’m going to put in at least 6 hours of school work).My writing life, well, maintaining my weekly blog post commitment becomes a Herculean task and my novel work is on ice. I miss my characters, I miss escaping to their world, I know they will start waking me up out of the few hours I manage to sleep if I don’t carve out some time for them soon. Personal relationships also are eclipsed by the school year, I barely manage to connect with my parents and friends. My parent’s anniversary is every August and the flowers I ordered will be late because I didn’t remember to order them until last night and their anniversary falls on a Sunday. I even do crazy things like stick my keys in the fridge, leave all my toiletries at school on Meet the Teacher day or leave my lunch on the kitchen floor the first day of school.

By Labor day the sun will shine back into my life and I will find balance again. I will be in the rhythm of the school routine and carve out the writing time and the social time without the fog of heavy exhaustion. So this thing happening up in the sky, no big deal, I’m a veteran of an August eclipse.

 

Southern Girl Rule #79: Reuse and Repurpose

 

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The chair that inspired a repurpose

If you read magazines like Southern Living or Better Homes and Gardens like me, you see plenty of stories of how a home owner decorated primarily using hand-me-down and garage sale type finds. They use paint and fabric, change knobs and legs and transform pieces into treasures. Sometimes they take items made for one purpose and use them in new and unique ways, proving that most things can be versatile if you use a little imagination.

So what does this have to do with a new and very modern classroom chair? Well, for a number of years I have used chair pouches to help my students corral folders and also to add a warmer, comfortable feel to my classroom. My Mama has sewn two sets of classroom pouches for me over my career and the last set we added iron-on turtles to go with m school’s mascot. Well if you have read my blog lately, you know I am changing schools and switching from a loggerhead to a coyote. So this summer I got excited and paid a pretty penny to have patches put on over the turtles to show the coyote and lettering to name the school and my section, 1D. That’s reusing, right?

Fast forward to moving in and finding that after twenty-five years in a public school classroom, someone has decided the typical chairs are no longer adequate and modern curvy backs are the bomb. I imagine by now you realize where I am going with this. Alas, the pouches don’t fit.

After a moment or two of panic and a black hole opening up and sucking money into it, with the help of some co-workers and friends I began problem-solving. Could we add something to the pouch? Could we attach the pouch to something that would fit the chair? Could we beat the chair into a normal shape? (No one suggested that one, it just flashed through my mind, I’m not a huge fan of modern- pretty to look at, not practical and I definitely wouldn’t want to live with it.) Each suggestion had its own difficulties.

After several conversations and text exchanges with my friend Emily, we have come to the second part of the rule. If you can’t re-use, then repurpose. We will be cutting out all those wonderful patches and reattaching them to curtains and who knows what else, we have a pow-wow scheduled in the room to brainstorm.  This rule is definitely more fun and more productive with a friend.