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.

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.

 

A Jewel In a City of Treasures

 

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A view of Randolph Hall under the Oaks by the Cistern

Almost thirty-one years ago my parents dropped me off to begin my college adventure on this beautiful and historic campus. The College of Charleston just received the distinction of the prettiest college campus, but the truth is the grounds and buildings have been picturesque for decades.

It was the seductive beauty of brick pathways, gaslight lamps, long reaching oaks with swaying Spanish moss and a collection of flowering and evergreen specimens that was too intoxicating for me to resist. I felt instantly as if I knew it, somehow it was a place I could call home.

The College campus feels more like a park in the heart of the city. I can’t even imagine the hours the horticultural team logs to keep it shining in all seasons. There are many places to stop and sit and soak in the scenery. The ironwork gates around the campus are works of art and the stately Randolph Hall reminds the visitor that the College history is woven into the history of the city and this nation.

More important than all this visual beauty is the beautiful soul this institution has. As a student, I felt connected to my fellow students, professors, and even the administration. Thirty years ago, the College was about half the population it is today, but I hope the current students feel they are part of a family like I did. Some of my best friends have come from those years.

I love learning and the College was the ideal environment to soak it in. With only one exception in my four-year degree and then a year and a half spent getting my masters, my professors were passionate about their subjects and really cared about my success in learning the material.

So yes the College of Charleston is easily the prettiest college campus but what makes it truly beautiful is the people and the commitment to education that focuses in on the value of learning and produces graduates that have the critical thinking skills to be successful in whatever field they choose.

 

Redesign Time

 

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My new look

All women know there is nothing like a new hair-do or a new outfit to make you feel renewed and spiffy. I discovered today that applies to website design as well. I have spent the last few hours redesigning my page so I can add new content in hopefully a user-friendly way. (Y’all will have to let me know what you think.)

Even with a template to work with, I found it difficult to make decisions. I tried several templates before I played around with this one called ficitve long enough I got the colors and the placement of items the way I had envisioned. Not bad for a self-taught techie.

Experts talk a lot about the importance of branding for authors and I hope this color palette says beach and lowcountry to those who view it. The lowcountry is a setting, but it is also a character in my stories. To me, the palette of the lowcountry is blues, greens, and browns. I hope my books are beach read enjoyable and I am happy to report not only has that been a comment in reviews from readers, it is also a key phrase to find my book on Amazon. Seriously, a friend sent me a screenshot of her beach read search and my first book popped up on the first page.

So I hope you will enjoy my new look as much as I do, I have that swing my hair and look at my reflection in the glass feeling I get after I visit my stylist Mallory at the salon. I may just float out into the kitchen to take on my next task, finding something for supper.

 

 

Office Hours

 

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My work area

One of the advantages of living in the South Carolina lowcountry is the proximity of the beach and each season I seek the sand and surf for different purposes. For example, in the winter I love to walk, think, process, and reflect. In the summer I set up my office hours.

A writer never really takes time off, your brain is always contemplating stories and characters, consiously or subconciously. Teachers on the other hand have what some consider the gift of summer, but what teachers know to be comp time for the many hours we work beyond our contracted hours. As both an educator and a writer, I spend a lot of hours working. That could be teaching, private tutoring or my author life and I enjoy it. Too much down time and I get a little antsy. Too little and I crash and burn and that what has me savoring this summer.

I have learned from past summers, if I schedule too many tutoring students, I don’t feel rested for the next school year. Plus, as my writing career continues to grow it needs more of my work time. I also know my time at the beach is non-negotiable, it is a must.

See beach time is more than relaxing, it is time set aside to read without distraction. If you read anything touting advice for writers, a given on the list is to be an avid reader. I have been a devourer of books before I began school and always have a stack calling my name.

During a typical school year I manage to read a book or two a month but in the summers I can read several books in a week. To keep that pace, my office hours on the sand are a committment to reading. The average person might think I’m loafing, but I can clearly make the case that I’m working dillegently. At least that is my story and I am sticking to it!

So with my toes in the sand, skin buffeted by the breeze and ears filled with the waves lullaby, I can spend several hours soaking up the beach and the literature on my knee. These are office hours I can enthusiastically fill. From one of my favorite Cole Porter songs, “Nice, gig if you can get it.”

 

Introducing The Soul Believes It

 

The Soul Knows It Cover for Bookmark

Chris Berge of Berge Designs does it again! The cover art for book three captures the soul of this book.

Book Three now has a cover and once again I’m in awe of my cover designer Chris Berge. In The Soul Believes It, Lizzie discovers a letter and a family secret, that challenge her beliefs about family and where she comes from. This cover captures the essence of that.

The lowcountry is blessed to have live oaks, dripping with silvery, lacy Spanish moss. When I think soul, this tree comes to mind. If you are ever in the area, a visit to the Angel Oak tree on John’s Island (On the way to Kiawah and Seabrook), will prove it.

These trees are the east coast’s version of the Redwood forest out west. Live oaks are iconic on the campus of my alma mater, College of Charleston. Last year when one fell, alumni along with Charleston residents grieved. I was thrilled to read that much of the wood was salvaged so it could be transformed into items for sale. The proceeds going to the college’s scholarship fund. I have to think Shel Silverstein would appreciate this giving tree.

These trees bear witness here in the lowcountry. They give us shade against the brutal summer sun. The sight of the moss fluttering in the sea breeze, whispers, “You are home.” They’re solid, long-lived. They will be here long after we are gone.

Just like these poetic trees, our souls bear witness to our lives and stand solid if we only anchor ourselves to them in times of turmoil. Our souls can be shattered to their core and our beliefs can be challenged and possibly changed, but at the core, our souls are the essence of who we are and that gives us what we need to believe.

I hope you will enjou reading the third installment in the lowcountry home series. The book will be out in June. For now, let the cover intrigue you and inspire you to do some soul searching of your own.

 

 

My Cheating Heart

 

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View from the Magnolia Cafe and Bakery in Beaufort, SC across to Lady’s Island.

I have made no secret about my love for the South Carolina lowcountry and the Charleston area in particular. I came of age here, I have loved, lost, lived with this place the backdrop. It is permanently etched on my heart, the saltwater, and the pluff mud course through my veins, I think my very soul would shrivel if I had to leave here forever.

But, I have a confession to make. I’ve begun an affair with a little town down the coast. Beaufort is also part of the magical lowcountry. The Port Royal Sound is captivating and the town itself is how our area was long ago, before mass growth.

It’s a walkable town. Residential is close to the commercial areas and the small annex campus of USC. Beaufort is big on charm and the arts. It has an intellectual and literary side that is palpable, and I’m drawn to know more. It is not crowded or pretentious. It is not in a hurry, Beaufort is a comfortable chair on a breezy porch. It is the gardenia in the garden, inviting you to stop and soak it in.

Yes, I have fallen hard. I have fantasies about buying a little cottage where I could live part-time, I don’t think I could bear to leave Charleston altogether. Fortunately for me, part of the book I’m finishing and most of the book next on my writing to-do list take place in that siren on the Port Royal Sound. I plan to make many repeat trips, you know. . . for research.

I hope I won’t make Charleston jealous and I hope she understands. She truly is my first love and will always be. I’ve just discovered this heart is big enough for two.

 

Lowcountry Magic

 

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Just another stunning lowcountry vista

To say that I have a love affair with the South Carolina lowcountry hardly describes how I feel about this place I call home. I was just working on a chapter in book three of my lowcountry home series and writing a description of this love brought tears to my eyes.

I’m not sure if many people would call this a blessing, but we are under a severe weather threat today and all after-school activities were canceled, including our faculty meeting, which left me free to get home this afternoon. Not wanting to fritter away this rare gift of extra time, I threw a load of laundry in then settled in to write. I have taken a few breaks to vacuum a few rooms, but I am very satisfied with the amount and quality of writing I have wrung from myself.

I wrote a scene with Lizzie walking along the waterfront in Beaufort. She is soaking in the vista and her senses are overcome by the views and the pluff mud at low tide. I could close my eyes and see, smell and hear what makes the lowcountry the lowcountry in my mind and my heart sang with joy.

The lowcountry is a tapestry of colors and textures to please the eye. The aroma of pluff mud is as pleasing to me as fresh baked bread or a magnolia blossom. I would swear the brackish water in this place where the rivers meet the sea courses through my veins along with my blood. I like to think it is the same for my character Lizzie.

I would hazard a guess that a regular dose of a marsh view or a walk along our beaches is as effective on blood pressure as any pharmaceutical on the market. Every day on my commute to work I get to see the marsh and the river. In the morning, these vistas fill my heart with joy. In the evening, I find it calms my mind and transitions me out of teacher mode before I get home.

Yes, I love the lowcountry with my heart and soul. The magic of this place has been woven so intricately into the tapestry of my life, it feels as if I would unravel if I tried to remove it. Not that I have any desire to do so. What a muse for a writer. What a place to call home.