Stepping onto Hallowed Ground

 

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My first book in the new section at the Mount Pleasant, South Carolina library.

The library has always been a magical place to me. Where else can you travel the world or travel through time for free.  If I think about it, I am not really sure how come I didn’t become a librarian. School library or public library, growing up in a nomadic military family, no matter where we moved there was a library full of familiar friends and new ones waiting to be discovered.

Do you remember the wonderful albeit slightly musty smell of a library book. I loved writing my name on the card and I was a little sad when we went to electronic scanning. Although technology has made our libraries better able to serve our needs. I love how the libraries now can search for a book title on the computer and get it delivered to your branch even if it has to come from another state.

Libraries to me are hallowed ground. They are an important piece of the foundation that forms a great society. Any member of our community can use the resources of the library to expand their learning, grow in their understanding of others and discover the possibilities, all they have to do is walk in the doors. You can feed your soul with the classics or your favorite genres. You can go back in time or see the world from a completely different perspective just by the selections you make from the shelves.

I love to browse the shelves and discover authors and series. While I do try to buy quite a few books to support fellow authors I am so glad that purchasing is not the only access point for literature. Some things in life should be free, just part of basic human rights and I think access to literature is right up there with clean air and water.

So needless to say one of my goals as an author was to have my books in the library. What made the achievement of this goal all the sweeter was not knowing and having a friend discover my book there on the shelf of our local library. The joy I felt in that moment will carry me for months to come. I think all authors on some level have achievements in mind that are the benchmarks for success in their writing life. First is just getting your book published. Maybe you want to get your book available on audio books. Perhaps you want to be on the bestseller’s list. Maybe you want the literary critics to take notice and like your work.

I think all authors on some level have achievements in mind that are the benchmarks for success in their writing life. First is just getting your book published. Maybe you want to get your book available on audio books. Perhaps you want to be on the bestseller’s list. Maybe you want the literary critics to take notice and like your work.For me I want people to read and like my stories and feel connected to my characters. I would love to have someone like Reese Witherspoon be the voice for my audio versions and I want to see my books in the library.

Being in the library means more to me than any commercial success or recognition, although as I grow as an author, I hope those things might come. For now, I am more than content to be on the library’s hallowed ground.

 

Saying Goodbye to the Season

 

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The door out to the garage

Well, the feast of the Epiphany has come and gone so now there is no question, it is time to say goodbye to the holiday season until next year. I have put away the tree, the mantle decorations and the various other decorations in the rooms around the house. The Christmas dishes are tucked back in the cupboard and the holiday linens have all been laundered and folded.

There are two things left to do. I need to take the wreath down from the front door, although with it’s cream ribbon and shells in the evergreen, I feel I can get a few more weeks out of it. The other task is dismantling the display of greetings on the door out to the garage. This has become one of my favorite parts of holiday decorating. I go in and out this door almost exclusively. That means I get to see all the fun pictures each and every day. I enjoy thinking about the friends and family who sent them. So needless to say, I am not really wanting to take them down.

It is sad to me that so many seem to have given up the tradition of sending a greeting card. I am glad that so many of the people I know still do. I love the picture ones, especially from the folks I don’t see all the time. I like to see how the children have grown in the past year and I adore when the family dogs or other pets are included in the pictures.  I like how my Aunt Nancy always tries to find a dog card to send to me, knowing how much I will enjoy that. I love the way the gesture of these cards makes me feel connected.

For the past few years, I have always ended up receiving enough cards to fill the door and I hope that is the case for years to come. I know this year’s display needs to come down soon, but not today…maybe tomorrow!

 

New Year Essentials

 

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Collards, rice and black-eyed peas from Boone Hall Farms in Mount Pleasant, SC.

Here we are on the eve of the eve of a new year and the end to another. On the whole 2016 seems like a year of turmoil and confusion across the globe, but personally, it was one of my best year’s yet and I can not help being optimistic about 2017.

I want to make sure to start off on the best possible foot forward. Here in the South Carolina lowcountry, that means a New Year’s day meal of Hoppin’ John and collards. Sometimes I think to myself I might skip it, last year’s serving has never turned me into an independently wealthy woman, at least not in dollars. I am a bit fanatic about removing the veins from the collard leaves and that is a tedious process. Not to mention the washing of the collards, it is akin to trying to get the sand out of leeks.

But who am I to tempt fate or mess with tradition. As my friend Emily pointed out when I shared my reluctance to tackle the hassle, it can’t hurt to eat them, but what might happen if you don’t. I certainly appreciate all the luck I can get.

While I may not be rich by bank account measures. I sometimes feel like the richest woman in the world by other measures. I have the two most wonderful canines in the world living under my roof. I have a loving family. My work as a teacher and a writer feed my soul. I work with the most fantastic group of people and my friends are truly walking around with hearts of gold. I live in truly one of the most beautiful places in God’s creation. My needs are met and many of my wants. I have health and faith and joy.

Now before I am accused of wearing rose colored glasses, I should point out I face challenges, disappointments, setbacks and frustrations like everyone else. But when I scale these against the blessings I wax poetic on above, I am in awe of how rich I really am.

So maybe decades of eating Hoppin’ John and collards has added to my coffers after all. Happy New Year y’all! May you find 2017 blesses you in the things that truly matter.

 

Christmas Ready

 

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Greetings at the Front Door

Wasn’t it just Christmas 2015? It sure feels that way until I think back on all that has happened in the last twelve months. Yet I am still surprised to be here, just days before Christmas 2017. Most of my preparations are done. I still need to finish preparing the guest room and make the big grocery store run. However, the house is decked out in its holiday finery.

The sparkle of the lights on the tree and the mantle are mesmerizing. In the dining room, the everyday artwork is stashed in my bedroom and in its place are my collection of blue Jul After Christmas plates from Denmark hang in place with ribbon and holly festooning them. the cupboard, the snowmen mugs, and the Christmas china is ready for duty. The holiday towels are in the guest bath as well as the kitchen. Even the coasters have been swapped out for their holiday counterparts.

Each year as I unpack all these items, I revel in the memories the objects evoke. Almost every item has a story or a connection to a loved one.  I love that the stockings hanging from my mantle were made by my friend Emily. I love that my reindeer that lights up, was brought to me one Christmas when I was in the hospital by my dear friend Gregg.  Many of my tree ornaments were gifted from my mother, a collection of angels, one for each year from the Metropolitan Museum of art and a collection of Lenox ornaments. I could go on and on.

For me, it is not the objects themselves that make them special, it is the connections to the people I love and cherish. I suppose they would not be so special if I had them up all year long. I do get a bit melancholy when it’s time to pack it all away for another year.

I try to be mindful and appreciative of all the blessings in this life and I find that this time of year that it becomes even more important. While I enjoy a beautifully decorated, almost magical environment for the holiday, you could take every one of the objects away as long as I wouldn’t lose the special people in my life.

I am content to savor this season, and I hope that like the old adage encourages I will keep Christmas in my heart the whole year long.

Merry Christmas y’all!

 

 

 

My Two Biggest Fans

 

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My Christmas Card 2016

Every Year since Lucky and Ella were born they have been the stars of my annual card.  This year I loved the idea of having them show off my two other babies. Recently a friend reminded me that over 16 years ago I shared that on my life’s bucket list was to publish a novel. Here we are and I have now published two with my third due out in the spring.

2016 has been a very special year for me and I have high hopes for 2017 as well. I love being a teacher. I love being an author. But I have to say, these two beautiful fur babies give me unconditional love every day and I love them the most out of all my blessings.

Those of you with animals other than human in your home understand what I mean. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to love a creature other than human, I highly recommend it. Sometimes I think the other species we share this planet with are the better members of God’s creation.

I have to say Lucky and Ella are particularly smart (biased of course!). They understand when I pull them together for a picture and will patiently pose for me. This year Lucky came over and got on the sofa and settled in without any cajoling, just a quick call, that it was time for the Christmas picture.

While Lucky and Ella can’t read my novels, they have listened to them when I read aloud for editing. I also put them in the first book as the dogs of my heroine Lizzie. I like to think they are flattered by this and proud of my accomplishment of becoming an author.

They are ten years old now and I hope we have many more cards to come. Regardless I love our tradition of taking our card picture each year.

 

An Accidental Dealer

 

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Bet you couldn’t eat just one!

For a number of years now I have gifted my friends, neighbors, and co-workers with these divine cheddar-pecan-cranberry cookies for the Christmas season.  It is a Southern Living  recipe that has become part of my repertoire and even if I wanted to make something different, I would fear the repercussions.

It starts after thanksgiving with comments like, “You are going to make those cheddar things this year.” Then when I present them, faces light up and grown-ups squeal in delight. The reactions make me feel a bit like a dealer, I know my recipients are hooked.

It is a magical combination of cheddar, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, butter, flour, salt and cayenne pepper, but I think the secret ingredient is love. I know I get as much pleasure baking them to give, as the folks who love eating them.

The baking and giving of these cookies has become a tradition, like many Southern Living recipes I make for various occasions throughout the year. I love how cozy the house is, all decorated for Christmas, while I bake. I love the aroma of the toasted pecans that lingers for several days. I don’t think it would feel like the holidays without preparing this recipe.

So I can reassure all those who have become addicted to my cookies, I will gladly be your dealer for years to come.

 

 

 

The Big Lesson In A Day About Small

 

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On Small Business Saturday, this was the place I did a book signing.

The Small Business Saturday after Black Friday has been gaining momentum in the past few years. I try to make a habit to shop in non-corporate  stores as much as I can and in Mount Pleasant we are blessed with some wonderful small businesses. Unfortunately, we don’t have an independent bookseller, although there are a few in the wider area. We do have a Barnes and Noble and I do patronize the store, I appreciate the teacher discount card and the fact that I can have a decent browsing experience. At one time I knew one of the managers by name, we had worked on a joint project together, but she is no longer with the company . While the employees are generally helpful, they don’t know me from Adam and there isn’t a connection.

Contrast what I observed in My Sister’s Books in Pawley’s Island. This store is an interesting place run by sisters. They only deal in paperbacks and audio books. There is a mix of new and used and it would literally take days to browse all the shelves. As I sat by my signing table I was struck by how many customers the owners greeted by name. It was obvious they had many regular and long-standing costumers who loved to trade in books, buy books and talk books. I also observed a family with husbands, wives, and children, spending their Thanksgiving at the beach, come in and all family members found a book or two. So many readers! I met a mystery author a children’s author and a photographer who had a book of stunning photos all taken at Pawley’s.

I met a mystery author, a children’s author and a photographer who had a book of stunning photos all taken at Pawley’s. We had all been invited to celebrate the Small Business Saturday. I even managed to shop for a few books while I was there. I enjoyed answering questions about my book and why I got into writing. I also enjoyed discussing other books and genres with readers. It was truly an enjoyable experience.

The big lesson I took away from the experience is the connections small businesses can make with customers makes the business so much more than buying and selling. The owners of My Sister’s Books are truly passionate about reading and they know what their customers want. I saw one of the sister’s go and pull a book for a customer and saw the delight of that customer to be treated so personally. I would hope the employees a the big box bookseller would also be passionate about books.  I know they are locals who are glad to be employed, but I get the sense their enthusiasm or drive to know their customers is lost in the corporate mindset they are trained with.

I think in the times we are living in, the only way to improve the state of the world, our nation, our state, our community and even our neighborhoods is through personal connections. Not through social media, but face to face contact, sharing our interests and our passions. Getting to know each other on a more intimate level, so we can have empathy and understanding for each other. I know if I had a choice between two businesses and one of them had gone out of their way to be friendly, or remember me, or to treat me as a person, not a dollar sign, that is the business I will return to again and again.

Small things add up to big things and do I dare say, could change the world.

 

Hooked. . . My Own Lizzie Moment

 

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My Holiday Blouse Purchased with Book Signings In Mind

For those of you who have read my books, The Eyes Have It and The Heart Knows It, then you are familiar with my heroine, Lizzie. Many who know me well say there is a lot of me in Lizzie and I have to admit she and I and kindred spirits in some ways. The biggest way would be when we are trying to be graceful in our movement we don’t always pull it off.

Lizzie is prone to falls and freak accidents with water pipes.  I have walked into a concrete column after a kiss and had a folding chair collapse on me in the middle of a crowd enjoying a band at our local Blessing of the Fleet.

This beautiful blouse led me to my latest moment. Luckily my folly was only witnessed by my very kind neighbor who rescued me.  You may notice that this blouse is full of holes. The crochet effect is part of what makes it stunning. I have to admit for my two book signings Saturday, at my alma mater, College of Charleston Alumni Weekend and at the Charleston Holiday Market up at the convention center, I received lots of compliments. Unfortunately, there is a hidden danger, at least for those of us prone to embarrassing moments.

To compliment my snazzy holiday outfit, I had pulled out my equally eye-catching, red-quilted and black patten leather purse with its gold chain straps.As I was departing to the first of the two signings, I tossed the purse onto my shoulder feeling like a fashion plate. I walked out to the car and went to take the purse off my shoulder to place in the car. To my surprise, the chain on the purse was attached to one of the crochet sections on the arm of the blouse.

Know it is important to know the purse was not only laden with the typical items, but it had my tablet and its charger in it as well as a few extra items I thought I might need at my two events. the weight alone would tear my new blouse easily. So I supported the bag in my hand and much like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, lurched across the street all bent over, praying my neighbor Kate would be home.

Fortunately for me, she was. With amusement on her face, she graciously extricated me and complimented me on my outfit. She spared me laughter, although I suspect she had a good laugh sharing the moment with her husband after I left. This does not bother me at all, I have much experience providing folks with something to laugh about.

So  lesson learned, keep purse away from  the blouse, or use a purse with no chains…Either way, I am proud to have my Lizzie moments. After all, Lizzie finally gave me the courage to become an author.

 

Third Annual Review

 

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November 12, 1971, my third birthday

Birthdays are more than a special day to celebrate, they are a reminder that it is time to take stock and reflect on the past year. Birthdays are a measuring stick of where we have been and a chance to plan where we want to be by the time the next birthday rolls around.

Sounds a lot like New Year’s Day. As a teacher, it also sounds like the beginning of a new school year every August. For the past twenty-four years, I have had three annual reviews. New Year’s I share with the whole world. The start of the school year I share with all the other educators. While I am sure many people were born on November 12th like me, in fact,two of my dear friends and two co-workers share it with me, it still feels like my own personal day. Three times a year, that I can take stock and make new goals.

I have so enjoyed my forties and I am glad I have a couple more years left in them. This past year I would have to say was one of the most special. I published my first book and have the second one coming out next week. I am in a good place, professionally and personally. I am content and am thoroughly enjoying living day to day. I am optimistic about where I am heading and how life will unfold in the coming years. This review gets an A+ rating.

I know this, no matter what this next year may have in store for me, I am truly blessed with the family, friends, and opportunities I have been given on this journey. Happy Birthday to me, and I wish for many more!

 

In Abundance

 

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Confederate roses in my backyard

It is early November and one one of the pleasures of living in the South Carolina Lowcountry is enjoying the continuing parade of bloomers, while many parts of the country have their plant life fading to brown and bare.

I worried about several of my plants during Hurricane Matthew. My magnolia, river birch and my redbud trees and also my camellias and these beauties. My attachment to the confederate rose bushes is two-fold. First I love that they bloom in late October into November. Second, they were rooted and given to me by a neighbor, which makes them way more precious than any plant I have ever purchased. Luckily none of my plants suffered any significant damage. The confederate roses were bent, some of the branches touching the ground, but the bushes were laden with buds, delivering a bumper crop of blooms.

This abundance speaks to me. It tells me that even when storms rage, there is resilience. It tells me there is hope and beauty among the challenges. The romantic in me even sees it as a metaphor for my writing career, it is growing and blossoming with vigor. Every time I catch sight of the pink roses from my back windows I can’t help but smile.

We stress every day about weather, politics, geopolitical conflicts, the economy, the loss of courtesy, respect, and compassion that seems to be happening among different groups of people. Much of this comes from fear of differences and belief that somehow there is a scarcity of resources. But the truth is the majority of us have more than we need and if humanity could ever learn to share its resources then all would live in abundance. I know that is an ideal vision for the world, but I hope that is what humanity will reach as reality someday.

It will be Thanksgiving in a few weeks, a wonderful time to reflect on all the blessings we have. I just found my reminder to be thankful every day for the abundance in my life a few weeks early.