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!

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Picture Perfect Panel

 

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Myself with fellow women’s fiction authors, Christine Nolfi and Pamela Poole at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina.

May 12th was the day I consider to be the first anniversary of my first book as published. May 13th, I added another first to my list in this author journey. I was part of a panel of women’s fiction panel at a wonderful bookstore, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina.

I have done book signings and book clubs, but this was the first opportunity I had to collaborate on an event with fellow authors. writing is a solitary pursuit and while I am very comfortable with that, it was refreshing to spend time with others who are traveling a similar path.

I particularly enjoyed the car ride up and back with my mentor and publisher and fellow author Christine Nolfi. Christine is well ahead of me on this path and she was kind enough to share her wealth of experience with me and encouraging words for my journey.

Every time I have done an event I realize that interacting with readers is one of my favorite things in an author’s life. I am sometimes surprised by that because before I got serious about my writing life I fantasized that I could hide out in a cabin by the sea and just send my books out into the world without me. I get a little nervous before an event but after, I am exhilarated and energized. I think I may be an extroverted introvert.

I love that all of us on the panel had a Charleston connection, two of us live here, one was born here and would love to live here again. I was also fascinated by how different each of our writing processes were. We had great questions from the host and the audience. The flow was natural and we shared laughter and a love of storytelling. Like our stories in women’s fiction, we embodied what makes the tribe of women strong. Women supporting women makes for a better journey for all.

Appropriate to ponder on this Mother’s Day. Enjoy the day y’all! Celebrate the women in your life, not just your mother. Most women, regardless of whether they have given birth nurture and uplift others, that I believe is the silent oath we take to be part of this tribe of women. I find southern women in particular, view this as a mandate and execute it with finesse, elevating it to an art.

Woman alone is strong and capable, women together are a force beyond reckoning. I love my fellow man, but I am thankful every day to be a woman.

 

 

 

Southern Girl Rule #2: Ladies have lovely lips.

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My growing collection of Lipsense products

Rule two has two parts. part one, what goes on your lips and part two, what crosses your lips.

Part one I’ll admit has always been a hard one for me, that is until my co-worker Amber introduced to me to a lip product I can’t destroy in minutes. I had a love-hate relationship with lipstick. I loved the colors and how polished wearing lipstick made me feel, but I hated how it ended up on my teeth, my glass etc. and was basically off my lips within twenty minutes of me applying it.

This lip product stays put all day and never leaves marks on anything, so I can kiss and not tell. I have become a major fan. Southern women know it’s important to leave the house put together even for a short run to the market. Lipstick can give the illusion of put together without having to do up your whole face. So part one of rule two I can follow with fidelity.

While lipstick is fun and girly it is not the important part of rule two. My friend Rachael who taught kindergarten and now pre-school has a saying that I have adopted and use with my students on a regular basis. “If it isn’t lovely, it doesn’t leave your lips.”

If only the world, particularly the political world would follow this simple rule, perhaps respect would grow and things might actually get accomplished. I am not advocating for women to be meek and un-opinionated, rather that we speak our thoughts with kindness and respect.

The most beautiful lips in the world will become the ugliest, if the words that cross them are cruel. With careful thought we can express strongly opinions, disagreements etc. in a way that doesn’t disparage the person we are conversing with. Empathy and compassion should be the screen through which our words are filtered.

So put on that Goddess, or Aussie Rose with a layer of Bombshell and gloss, just make sure your words are just as lovely.

Marriage and Monograms

 

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Monogram displayed at my friend, Vicki’s wedding.

In The Soul Believes It, the third book in my lowcountry home series, I had the joyful task of planning a wedding for one of my characters. The book will be out this Summer and I hope you enjoy wedding storyline as much as I enjoyed writing it. Fortunately, I have been a guest at several beautiful weddings in the past few months and one of them was at Alhambra Hall, the setting for my fictional reception.

The picture above was from that wedding. I loved how they placed the new monogram for the bride and groom as a couple on the mantle. I was even inspired to have my character’s new last name, to begin with, an M. I love how M’s scroll and I liked the idea that my character’s maiden last name was W, so it was a flip, a visual representation of what women do when they take their husband’s name.

Now don’t get the wrong idea, I’m a traditionalist. I’m not fond of the hyphenated name or the wife keeping her maiden name, especially if children follow, it just gets confusing to me. I’m also of the school of thought that to each his, or in this case her own, I have no problem with other women choosing any option.

I used to wish I could marry someone with a last name that began with G, simply because I liked the idea my initials could be JAG, perfect reason to get the car, right?

When I monogram things with just one letter, I waffle between J, because that is forever, or A because that is for family. It is one of the only times I’m jealous of men, they never have to change their initials, their identity is set at birth.

On the bright side, new brides can embrace a new monogram. There is silver, glassware, towels, purses, linens, sandals, you name it, it probably can be monogrammed. What a delightful way to embrace your new identity.

 

 

Big Hair Affair

 

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This is how I roll…

When I was down in Beaufort checking out some scenery for book three of my Lizzie books, my friend and I wandered through some of the shops on Bay Street. After about the sixth shop my friend quietly asked me, “What’s up with all the big hair?” When I gave her a quizzical look, she elaborated, “All the shopkeeper seem to have big hair.” Tongue in cheek, I responded, “It’s back in, the eighties are making their comeback.”

The truth of the matter is at least in the South, I don’t think big hair ever left. I started high school in the eighties and wrapped up my College undergrad years in the spring of 1990, so I think I can speak with some authority about the 1980’s. Hair was big and girls turned to chemicals to make it as big as possible. For those of you too young to remember, getting a perm was a rite of passage and the thing to do. Unfortunately, my hair was and still is so sensitive to chemicals even the rather benign wave left my hair with curls as tight as a poodle. Nowadays that sensitivity is a blessing, as my hair will hold highlights for close to twelve months.

So once I learned perms and waves would never work for me, I became the proud owner of hot rollers. I think I’m on my third set at this point and they are still my go-to tool to get the lift in my hair. That and a fair amount of hairspray. I have to admit I hated hairspray back in the day, but now it seems kinder and gentler.

Big hair has presence.Think about the characters in Steel Magnolias. It is hard to be a wallflower or a mouse when you are sporting big hair. The character Annelle, seemed to transform when she finally got big hair and a little lipstick.

As a vertically challenged person, I like that it adds a little to the height, much more comfortable than wearing high heels. It also makes the face look thinner. It is hard to see a downside to big hair.

Now I don’t hot roll every day, I leave for school before six a.m. most mornings and frankly, I would rather stay in bed an extra fifteen minutes most mornings. However, when I need a little pep in my step, I have a special event, or if I’m just feeling sassy, I spend a part of my morning looking like an extra on a Star Trek set. That moment when you first remove the rollers and the curls are at their absolute biggest always makes me smile.

So if big hair makes a comeback, then I guess I’ll be in the now, for a little while anyway. My affair with big hair began in my teens and I have no intention of it ever ending. Happy hair spraying, y’all!

 

Cultural Lessons

 

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Photo my friend Sally sent me from a shop in Hilton Head, SC

I enjoy aspects of many cultures around the world. Some of that comes from growing up in a nomadic military family and some from being an avid reader of novels set all over the world. Both inspired me to be open to visiting those places and adopting from those cultures customs I could enjoy in my own life.

When my friend Sally sent me this picture from a shop in nearby Hilton Head, South Carolina, it made me smile. I have a slight addiction to bags anyway (a tale for another time), but the message spoke to my soul. I might add the line, Live American, I absolutely love our country. I also think living American means appreciating the best the world has to offer and melding that into our own culture, we have been doing that for well over two-hundred years. I personally think that is what makes America a vibrant nation.

I might also change a few of the lines, I might Speak Kindness, Eat Italian, Love French and Read British, but one thing I would not change is, Smile Southern. Kindness and hospitality are still a hallmark of southern living. We need to be vigilant to keep that so and I dare say we should work hard to export it to the rest of the country and the world. My inner flower child thinks that what the world needs more than anything these days is love, kindness, empathy and yes lots of smiles.

Here in the south, we have our own way of dressing, cooking, decorating, gardening and storytelling. This lifestyle needs to be celebrated and preserved with care. I get alarmed when yet another charming local business in downtown Charleston is replaced by another national chain business you can find in any city around the country. I’m not opposed to those businesses, but I think they need to be off in a mall somewhere, not on a historic street. I had the same reaction when in London and Paris and saw shops like The GAP on prominent city streets, I wanted uniquely French and uniquely British.

Along that same vein, I think if you want to move here and live here, y’all are welcome as long as you respect and adopt our ways. We don’t cut people off in traffic or exhibit impatience when we need to wait in line. Above all use words of kindness, slow down and take time for conversation and above all smile and return smiles offered.

A smile is a simple thing that doesn’t cost a thing, yet it reaps goodwill and respect. It opens doors and lifts spirits. No matter where you’re from or what language you speak, adopt the practice of a Southern smile and I promise good things will follow.

 

 

Southern Girl Rule # 7: Hair Appointments are Sacred

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I have the crud, you know that sinus yuck that turns infectious and takes down your ears and lungs by the time you give in and see the doctor. I’ve only had a few doses of the antibiotic and I have barely passed for a living at work the past two days. Yet I was determined to make my hair appointment.

To be clear I am not contagious, otherwise, my doc would not have allowed me to go to work and I wouldn’t take germs to the salon. I laid on the sofa for awhile between work and the appointment to gather my strength and for a brief moment, I did second guess my decision not to, “gasp” risk re-scheduling. I always schedule my next appointment before I leave, crazy would be the word for the girl who takes her chances for a last minute opening.

Once there I knew I had made the right call. First off can I say that my stylist, Mallory is magical with hair? She has mad skills. She is enjoyable to visit with and always makes me feel good. She can’t cure the crud, but she can make me feel beautiful while I suffer through it.

No matter if the weight of the world is on your shoulders or if you are under the weather, the salon is the place where you step in, in pieces and you step out renewed and put back together, at least for the moment. When I step out, I feel the swing of my hair and it adds pep to my step. I can almost imagine I am in one of those shampoo commercials, you know where the world stops to stare at the girl’s beautiful hair.

When I watch shows like Downton Abbey, I totally get why the ladies don’t do their own hair. No matter how you try, you can never do your own hair like someone else can. My favorite scenes from Steel Magnolias are the ones that take place in the beauty shop. It is a place a girl can be a girl. I wonder if men feel the same way about the barber shop?