Farwell and Thank You 2020!

Well we made it to the end of 2020 and while it may be a dark year in our collective history and personal lives, I would like to thank 2020 for the amount of light it provided as well. I haven’t blogged this year, frankly I haven’t done much writing this year at all. Partly because trying to be a teacher during a pandemic and pivoting the methods of teaching sharply last spring. and partly because I found this year leading me down a path of discovery and growth which has led to great personal growth and I believe a productive writing year for 2021.

Very few people on our planet have lived through a pandemic before and so much has changed since the last one, we have had to write the playbook as we’ve gone along. I don’t want to dwell on the politics that have gone on, personally I don’t think politics should have played a role in life and death circumstances. But I do think the pandemic gave us the opportunity to see what might need to be fixed politically and policy-wise in our great democracy, still not a perfect union, but I have faith we are still striving for it.

We have had an uncomfortable but necessary light shone on long-festering societal issues, from racism, poverty, access to basic needs in various communities, and civil discourse, the pandemic heightened the issues and also gave many Americans the pause in their normally busy lives to stop, listen and observe, whereas pre-pandemic we might have given these issues a passing nod, but just got on with life rather than engaging in dialogue and thought that I hope will lead us to make leaps in improvements in all these areas.

Personally, I was gifted the time to correct my priorities for consistency in fitness and other self-health care practices. ( I lost 23 pounds this year). While I have practiced my faith and bible study for a long time, this year it became deeper and I found great solace in letting go of the worry and putting it in God’s hands. I can walk by faith and find the blessings amidst the pain and tribulations of the time we are in. I am much more appreciative of the people in my life, from family, old friends and new. From the sisterhood (with a few brothers thrown in) of educators who have marched on and encouraged each other in the most challenging year of my so far 28 year teaching career. I have also become more appreciative of every day, the sunshine, nature, my home, my fur babies, in other words I have increased my attitude of graditude.

I did help a fellow educator write a timely book for parents on learning at home, not just for virtual school, but summer enrichment etc. I definitely prefer fiction writing, but it was cathartic to have some writing to do. I am encouraged that with a little disipline and as long as I can continue to teach in person all spring semester as we did this fall, I can again develop the routine of regular writing sessions and finish up a book that has been lingering in my self-made purgatory for all of 2020.

Thank you 2020 for reminding me of all the blessings I have and how faith and gratitude can be a light in the darkest of days. I can’t say I’m sad to see you go. Right before the holiday break I was explaining to my students that when we came back it would be 2021 and one of them said, “Yea! No more COVID!” I had to explain that just because the year changed it would not magically go away, but that while last new year’s we had optimism and no idea what was coming and the year went downhill, this 2021 was starting down and we were on a steady climb back up to the top. The kids actually cheered, it was apparent we all need that vision of hope to hold on to.

Welcome 2021, I have high hopes for you and I also have faith that you will deliver.

Reflections From the Tarmac

sunriseI flew out of Charleston very early this morning, just as the sky awoke in a blazing and glorious sunrise.  I even caught a glmpse of a rainbow in the clouds.  By the time we taxied down the runway and lifted off, the sun had risen above the horizon and the sky turned blue, losing the glowing shades of red, pink and orange.

Once aloft the beauty of the lowcountry stretched out below. The twisting waterways making their way to the great expanse of sea. The land verdant green, I could make out the historic pennisulea, the Ravenel bridge, 526 and even the location of my own neighborhood, yet from the air the view appeared to be looking down at almost prestine land, rather than the heavily travelled roadways and overdeveloped land that exists on the ground.

Still further we climbed, suddenly above a rather thick layer of clouds, fancifully seen as a large bag of cottonballs that God had spilled over his creation. Above us bright sun and another whispy layer of clouds. Finally we reached crusing altitude, the cotton ball pile farther below and we seemed on par with that second layer of clouds.

Again the view changed as we made our descent back through the clouds and into the metropolitan DC area, the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetary and the landmark monuments all visible, the vast networks of roads snaking across the land, carrying countless of commuters in the morning rush. Still from the air, the green of the land, the water of the Potomac were more prominent than they are from terra firma. Driving with Daddy from the airport, the endless urban sprawl that is known as Northern Virginia made the sprawl in my beloved lowcountry look downright rural in comparision.

Each stage of this hour and 8 minute flight, was a study in perspective.  Depending on how you view a situation, or sometimes from what vantage point can give you an entirely different perspective on the issue, the problem, or the challenge.  Sometimes a problem viewed up close hyperfocuses us on it’s worst qualities, the blemishes take cetner stage. But from a distance, the blemishes fade to reveal a beauty we might overlook. A different view can shift our attitude and our outlook.

I was nervous about this trip, I normally drive and take my beloved fur babies with me. this time I was leaving them with a housesitter, albeit, someone I trust and know will be a good surrogate for me. My mama is in the hospital and when I bought my tickets she was supposed to be home and I was to help for the first few days of homecare, due to complications beyond our control, she will be in the hospital for my entire visit.  Daddy who turns eighty next month is doing well, but I wanted to be able to help more.  It seems so strange to be here at my parent’s house, without my Lucky and Ella, without my mother being here and my car not in it’s usual spot. But viewing the circumstances from a different light…

Mom’s extra time in the hospital means much more physical therapy which means she will be so much stronger when she does come home.  By flying rather than driving, I cut my travel time down by seven-eighths. I can’t really see the positive of being without my golden retrievers, in the almost thirteen years they have been part of my life, I have only spent a few nights away from them, only because I was hopsitalized and then they were in the care of my own mother.  But perhaps with the view from a few days here managing the prep from mama’s homecoming and hanging out at the hospital I might even find the silver-liing in our brief separation.

Perspective, viewing life from a different altitude, distance, or any new vantage point you can find can change your outlook and attitude. I highly recommend a flight with a window seat to get a new view on your world.

We’ll Cross That Bridge When We Get There…



View from the Top of the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston on a fine March morning

I am a self-acknowldged planner. I don’t just want to know what is happening tomorrow, or next week, but I would like life to show me the next ten years, complete with road map and all the major stops along the way pre-determined. Yes, I am laughig too, fifty years of life has shown me that life’s take on plans is how to distrupt them.

As a child I wanted to know what was next, how would we handle various contingencies and I have strong memories of my daddy often saying, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”  I found that response to my queries to be extremely frustrating and disconcerting. If the hero in my life didn’t know than how was it all going to work out?

I learned over time to silently work out scenarios in my head as a way to prepare myself for whatever curve ball might come my way. This has served me weill in emergency prepardness plans, personally and as I have lead classrooms full of children through, fire, earthquake, tornado and active shooter drills. I have been trained in emergency tourniquets and have contingency plans ready for a variety of horrific events. My scenario processing has also helped me to remain calm when facing decisions, chances are I’ve thought about the decision well before I actually had to make it.

However, life has a funny way of throwing a scenario at you that your wildest imagination hadn’t even considered. That road map through a decade has some detours that were unmakrd and even some side roads that have such a strong allure you can’t help but make a little exploration.

The troubled waters are alway looming and while some preparation can be helpful in figuring out how you might cross them, what kind of bridge you might need to contruct, Often times the truly best options don’t present themselves until you are standing on the banks searching for the way forward.

I’ve been in a season of my life this past year where obligations and some side-roads on my map have taken me away from my writing life. A novel I had planned to finish and publish last fall and then this spring has moved from riding shotgun, to the back seat and then stowed away in the trunk. The bridge back to it has been a bit elusive and I have come to the conclusion that it’s okay. My school year, which has demanded so much from me, but which I have also loved and the friend who has needed extra care and help from me, also which I have loved to provide, are both lessening in the demands. My focus on my health by establishing a regular exercise routine is part of life now and not such a destracting burden and a new summer season is a mere ten weeks away and I can see my way back to my writing work.

I don’t want to jinx it by putting it in ink on my road map, so for now I’ll just say, “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”


Bring It On 2019!



Wilbur, my resident party animal, plus neither dog would wear the glasses for a picture…

The last few days I have been able to indulge in some of my favorite morning television and of course, they were discussing resolutions and goals for the coming year and they also had on tape what the various personalities had said for 2018 on tape, playing back and admitting to their fails and celebrating their successes. Which initially gave me the idea to write a post today, on the first day of this new year.  Here is my accountability in writing out there for the world to see, not just a note taped to my bathroom mirror, to be removed a few months down the road.

I had purchased a set of 2019 glasses to use with my students on the first day back to school and had thought how great if I could get the dogs to wear the glasses for the post photo (and I didn’t even drink last night!) Needless to say, that was a photo shoot that didn’t happen. Plan B…There was Wilbur just sitting there, a willing crazy eyewear model and upon reflection a much better representation of me.

Why? So glad you asked. If your familiar with the character Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, then you know he is loyal, optimistic about the goodness of people (and spiders) and the world in general. I like to think those traits are part of my make-up. Call me crazy, but I think 2019 will be a great year, the world will become a better place, People will be kinder and more compassionate towards others and we will rise above the ignorance and fear that dominated many of our national conversations in 2018.

While I can’t control the actions and words of others, I can choose mine. I can let, peace, compassion, and love begin with me, from what I say to what I do, not just in the big moments, but in the mundane everyday moments.

So my resolution for 2019 is to measure my words and actions against this ideal. That’s my commitment to making the world the better place I envision it to be and I invite you to join me.

Now for the more mundane (yet equally important to me) goals. I’m recording them here as a way to make me accountable.

  1. Exercise daily: 5 days at the gym, walking the dogs daily, yoga 2-3 days a week (Note this isn’t about weight loss, although that should be a nice side effect. I’m focusing on my strength, balance, and flexibility so I can make it to my goal age of 108 standing straight and moving around on my own power). You could say I share some physical characteristics with Wilbur as well, rather rounded and soft.
  2. Save a full month’s salary in the emergency fund (I know it should be more, but I’m trying to be realistic here, knowing there may be an appliance or two that will need replacing this year.)
  3. I will finish and get out into the world my fourth book.

If 2018 was any indication, I’ll be back to this moment at the beginning of 2020 in what will seem like a mere blink of the eye. So come on 2019, there is no time to waste, I’m off to the gym!


At The Close of Christmas



Packing up the tree ornaments

I have taken a hiatus from my blog for almost two months. It wasn’t intentional it just sort of happened and on reflection, I think I needed it. Life, however, didn’t take a respite, it barrelled along at top speed finally coming to what I know will be a brief slow down in this lull between Christmas Day and New Year’s (Although looking at my calendar of events for the next few days, it is not exactly a lull devoid of activity).

I put the tree up on December first this year, which makes it the first to be taken apart and packed away. I will leave the mantle and the dining room table until this weekend. Stretching out the season just a little. Each year as I place each ornament away for the next eleven months, I reflect on the people who gave me the ornaments, or the memories attached to them. I think about how an ornament represents an aspect of my life, for example, the turtle that makes me think of my years at Laurel Hill Primary school or my collection of MOMA angels that make me think of my Mama. As I dismantle this year’s Christmas I think back on the current year, the good and the bad and take stock of where I am in this moment.

The packing of the decorations for me is a solitary activity which makes it a good time for contemplation. A new year is just days away and while my faith doesn’t officially close the Christmas season until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, I like to face January 1 with a clean slate, that’s a clean house in the real world as well as in my figurative world. After fifty years of living, I know that some baggage comes forward with me and I believe some of it should. Not all baggage is negative, some of it is wisdom or at least reminders to help make better decisions moving forward, hang on to those thoughts. Some are the blessings that lift us up and strengthen our armor for the battles that lay ahead, Keep these in your carry-on bags.

The rest, the doubts, insecurities, the hurts intended or unintentional, leave all those behind in 2018, we will pick up some new ones in 2019, we are after all, only human. But perhaps we can try and relegate these to the smallest disposable bag possible in the coming year.

As I pack up the ornaments and the trimming, I am packing up the good things I’ll move forward with and discarding that which I don’t want to see in my life when it’s time to pack up 2019. A year is but three-hundred-sixty-five days, we should make the most of it. Another thing I’ve noticed is the older I get the faster the years seem to go, so I’ll be back to this time of reflection before I know it. As I pivot from the past toward the future, I’m filled with contentment in this moment. After all, this moment is what life is really all about. Yesterday is part of my story, but I can’t change it, tomorrow is hoped for, but I can’t make it turn out the way I might envision, but this moment, this beautiful gift of a moment, I can soak up and be present in. This is the thought that I will carry in the palm of my hand, my passport into the year ahead.


The Big Five-Oh



In six days I’ll be the newest member of the fifty club

I’m a little stunned to say I’m about to be fifty years old. It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating forty . . .thirty. . . twenty. How is it possible I have made fifty trips around the sun.?

It’s natural to be reflective on the cusp of a milestone and I’ve done some personal examination in the past few weeks in preparations, but I also find myself taking stock of the past fifty years in a global sense. When I was little my dad worked with a computer that was so large it needed its own building, now people walk around with computers on their wrists. The year I was born the first man walked on the moon and now dozens of satellites orbit Earth to bring us television and other services and people actually live on a space station for months at a time. I can’t imagine the level of change this world will have seen when I mark my one-hundredth birthday.

Yes, I intend to see my one-hundredth birthday, I plan to live to one-hundred and eight. My family history indicates that this is entirely possible. But even if life ended today I am comfortable in the knowledge that in the balance of it all, my blessings far outweigh my tribulations. I may not be bank account rich by American standards, but I probably am in third-world standards. What I am rich in is the most important part of life, I’m rich in loving people in my life. I have a wonderful family and I am blessed to have parents who have always loved me for who I am. I have friends old and friends new, I love that we can add friends to our hearts without limit. I have the most wonderful people, many in the friend count, that I work with and that makes work a very pleasant place to be. I have been blessed with an amazing teaching career and the opportunity to build a writing career. I would be remiss if I didn’t count the wonderful animals that have shared my life over the years including my current twelve-years-old golden retrievers who give me such joy on a daily basis. YES, the blessings are far greater than the tribulations.

I thought my forties were pretty fabulous. I was finally comfortable in my own skin. I think I learned what is truly important in this life. I say think because each decade I learn more that shifts my understanding. I anticipate the fifties will have its own set of lessons to absorb. I know many people view fifty as the top of the hill, the beginning of the slide down, but I choose to look at it as a continuation of the climb. I’m excited about being able to claim I’m half-a-century old. I like the idea I might be viewed as wise by the younger, although I have at least fifty-eight more years of learning ahead.

Whatever this next decade brings, I’m thankful for all of the past fifty years. Each triumph and each tragedy, even the mundane days of daily living have brought me to this point. For a moment I’m trying to slow down time and savor this milestone. I will savor the moments of my party with many of those friends I’m blessed to have. Then I’ll jump into this next decade with enthusiasm for all the gifts of life that are yet to come.


A Call to Love America



A wall in my patriotic foyer

I have been largely silent with my blog for several weeks for two large reasons. It’s report card and report card conference time and my primary work by necessity takes priority over working on my fourth novel, my writing life in general, and basically all other areas of my life. This is nothing new, there are known stretches in a teacher’s year where the work of an educator overshadows everything.

The second reason, however, has been eating away at me. As a writer, I naturally turn to express myself with my pen, or in modern terms my keyboard. I have been bothered by so much that has happened in our country over the recent past and in particular the lack of civility in our political discourse. Yet I don’t wish to write a political piece and if you read on, I hope you will agree with me that this is indeed a bi-partisan expression, rather than a taking of sides.

I grew u in a military family and being patriotic, loving our country and being emotionally stirred by our anthem, flag and taps played on Post in the evening was not something reserved for a few holidays each year, but part of our daily living. I remember as a teenager being upset when my daddy retired, albeit partly because my parents wanted me to be able to complete high school in one place. If he wasn’t an army officer anymore, then who were we as a family?

I think it took until after college for me to identify as an American civilian and yet I still chose to serve my country as a public school teacher. All my years teaching I have led students each morning in the saying of the pledge, indoctrinating them into this basic exercise of patriotism and hopefully conveying a respect and reverence for our great nation.

The lens I view America in is influenced by our family’s years in military service, my college educated parents and the financial security we lived in and I realize that my experience is not the same of many of my fellow Americans who have experienced much more difficult paths simply because of the color of their skin, their religion, or even their economic status. Yet so many of these fellow Americans love America just as I do and some possibly more, as they have had to have much more faith in that American dream that my experience had somewhat taken for granted.

I have a bachelors and a Master’s degree and my bachelor’s degree is in political science, I love history and government, but one thing I learned in studying our political history is that there has always been an ugly side to it. Even our founding fathers were subject to slander and mocking words and cartoons. There have been periods in time when lines have been crossed and extremists have taken devastating and illegal steps, think John Wilkes Booth. But it seems that in these modern times it has reached beyond the public political figures to private citizens, opposing sides claiming the opposition is somehow evil and that we should not tolerate people who are different from ourselves. To say it’s disturbing is an understatement in my opinion.

So what is a patriot, a lover of America to do?  I would say turn away from the two dark paths of vitriolic rhetoric from the left and the right and chose the illuminated path in the middle, have civil discourse on issues, keep the focus on issues, have a basic respect and empathy for all human beings. Work to solve problems rather than just assign blame regardless of whether it is well-founded or not. It would be nice if this could be exemplified from the leadership of our country top down, but if the last couple of years are any indicator, I think that is unlikely to happen.

But here is one of the great things about America, we as a people, from the ground up are quite powerful in bringing about change. We were formed by a revolution, we have changed the conditions in this country, not just by passing laws, but by movements that brought women the right to vote, improved conditions for workers, and civil rights. Who says we can’t do it again. If we as a society reject incivility and ugly rhetoric, if we as a society focus on our shared love of country and a mutual respect for fellow human beings we can bring about the change.

While I have no intention of leading a national movement, I know that choices I make in my daily life on how I treat others can have a ripple effect with all I come in contact with. If enough of us do it the kindness will grow and swell until those at the top will be influenced to change their ways.

So I’m using my small little blog that is usually about southern life and how that influences the writing of my novels to advocate for an issue that is dear to my heart and too important to ignore.

LOVE America! Love it enough to choose love over hate.



Reflections at a Wedding



The Gadsen House in Charleston, South Carolina

I went to a wedding Friday night, after a long day of a long week and dare I say one of the craziest in the political realm of our country and frankly I was exhausted. I rushed home from work to go from teacher causal Friday (jeans and spirit wear) to hot rolling my hair (although with the high humidity, not sure why I bothered) and semi-formal wear.

In the novel I’m currently working on I have a wedding scene to write and was anticipating that this event would inspire.  I was not disappointed, but I was surprised at what provided the most inspiration.

As expected a Charleston wedding set in a historical house and courtyard provided a beautiful setting, At times it felt fairy tale like, with the string lights, candles and uplighting in the courtyard. The food was outstanding, particularly the jumbo fried shrimp wrapped in bacon and the fried green tomato bites at the cocktail hour. There were three food stations for the dinner, the shrimp and grits being my favorite. The music from a strings group prior and during the ceremony to a DJ who played a wide range of music, from Patsy Cline and Frank Sinatra during dinner to crowd favorites like the Cuban Shuffle during the dance party.  The timetable for the first dance and dances with parents to the tossing of the bouquet and the sparkler send-off of the newly minted couple was impeccable, truly a beautiful and well-run wedding.

Yes all the above was more than enough to mine for inspiration, but what I found most impactful was the true love and respect that brought these two youngsters (I can call them that because I have known the groom since he was a pre-schooler and I taught the bride and her sister when they were in the first grade) to the altar and to vow a life-long contract with each other. They have been a “couple” since middle school, friends first, growing into a teenage romance and blossoming into a love that will carry them to old age. I truly got the feeling that even though they were surrounded by the beauty of a traditional Charleston wedding, if they were exchanging their vows in concrete windowless room, it would have been just as beautiful.

The ugliness of the past week in our nation’s narrative dissipated from my mind and reminded me that love and respect can trump hate and intolerance. This couple will build a life together, and I’m sure that there will be days that will be ugly, either between them or from outside forces, but I have no doubt they can persevere, grow stronger and move into a more harmonious time in their journey.

I want to believe that about our country too. We are in an ugly time, but can we move forward with compassion and love for our fellow citizens, even when we don’t agree on something? Can we see the bigger picture, that this is a piece of our history we can learn from, grow stronger and become better?  I still believe the answer is yes!

I may be in the minority in that I am more moderate and centrist than the so-called left and right, but like the bride and the groom who met in the middle and then walked down the center aisle together, I want to see our politicians do the same for the betterment of our country. I want to see the one-hundred senators, get back to a place where they set the example of respect, principles, and morality. Then perhaps other branches of government can follow suit and who knows maybe society in general.

As part of the ceremony, the officiant reminded us that we are more than just witnesses to the covenant made between this bride and groom, but we have a responsibility to lift them up, encourage and support them in this life-long covenant.

I would say the same thing is required of each and every American. Not to just offer partisan support at the polls, but to know our constitution, now how our system of government is designed to work and hold our elected officials accountable to follow the rules, do so with compassion and use their power to fix the injustices so we can form a more perfect union. I would dare to say, listen to the other side of the argument respectfully, encourage sides to compromise into legislation that will not be in peril when the other side gains majority, but that can withstand the test of time because it improves our country and was reached together, so both sides have a hand in it.

I know, this sounds almost fairytale-like, but it doesn’t have to be. Besides, I just went to a beautiful wedding, I can’t help but be optimistic.


Reflections From the Sunset



Sunset over the creek from a friend’s backyard

It has been a few weeks since I’ve penned a blog post and it has been a few weeks since I took the above photograph.  I took it at a fellow educator’s house at an end-of-summer-back-to-school gathering. The end of summer break is always bittersweet. It has gone to fast, but I’m excited to get back to the classroom and a new set of students.

When I snapped this picture I had envisioned writing a witty post about the sun setting on my summer, but as the days went by I found myself unmotivated to write it and the coming school year sucking up my energy, creativity, and attention. So I gave myself permission to take a mini-hiatus from my blog post despite the fact the need to write and the desire to share the picture nagged at me.

Then a couple of weeks ago a co-worker’s husband died suddenly just as we were launching the new school year. That was followed this week with the sudden passing of a dear friend’s mama and I traveled with some of our friends to the funeral in Camden, South Carolina today.

It was a joyful funeral in the sense that the hymn choices were upbeat expressions of love and the homily given described a beautiful life lived in the caring of and giving to others that brought to mind that phrase, “All is well with my soul” and I could imagine my friend’s mama saying that at the golden gates. It was hard to see the grief etched on my friend’s face, knowing the only easing will be time and the grief will be carried forward through every holiday and life event even years from this moment.

I fear my peers and I are entering that season where more and more of us will say goodbye to our parents and this thought made me look at the photo of the sunset in an entirely different way.

We aren’t guaranteed a certain number of sunrises or sunsets, so we need to appreciate each one we witness and make the most of the days and nights between them. Fill that time living our best lives, being kind, telling people we love them and that they matter. Take time to sit and watch the sun slip down over the water and give thanks for the day we’ve been given, no matter the season, no matter what challenges the day may have brought.

Each day is a gift and I believe if I get to the end of one and I can think back on something kind or an expression of love I’ve given to another living being, then that gift has been honored.

May we all have many sunsets in our count when we get to our final one.


On A Quest for Glee



Me in my pre-school years

When I reflect on my childhood, particularly in my early childhood, I realize how blessed I was. I lived most days filled with wonder and glee. Oh, I know there were moments of tears, fears and sadness like any other child, but what echoes down the decades is the glee evident in this photograph.

As we mature and take on more and more responsibilities, the harder truths of the human experience diminish our glee. Once the veil of innocence is lifted, we can’t replace it. But what we can do is seek moments of glee.

It seems like lately if I turn on the news and hear about the turmoil at home and around the world, or when I look around at loved ones who are battling cancer or other daunting life challenges, I could easily slip into a pit of despair.

However, I have what my grandmother would call a bit of “Pollyanna” in me. I strive for the optimistic outlook the majority of the time. I seek a way to flip the negative to the positive. I seek the rainbow after the storm.

It sometimes takes a little work and sometimes some planning to position ourselves for moments of glee. Sometimes glee sneaks up on us, a gift from the heavens to savor. Regardless if it was sought or a moment of serendipity, I think we should embrace as much glee as we can to counteract all the negative that swirls around our lives.

Glee is like a vitamin for our psyche, a bit of armor to protect us from the arrows of disappointment and the bad juju in the world.

I am grateful for all the moments of glee that lessen the power of the moments of despair. I like to think that at the end of my life, many, many years from now, that on the balance, the glee will outweigh the negative and give me a beautiful tableau of moments to look back on and cherish.

So I will appreciate the happy moments as they come, seek them out, and hopefully provide and share those moments with those I love.