Lessons From the Tide

 

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Low tide

 

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

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

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

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

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

In The Final Quarter

 

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Unpacking the Fall decor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

In the Stack

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permission to Pause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

 

First Bloom

 

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First ever bloom on Baby Magnolia, discovered June 4th.

 

Back on May 15, 2015, I posted a blog titled, Magnolias, Progress and Patience. It was about how eight years prior a friend had dug up a seedling, basically a stick with two leaves and gave it to me to plant in my backyard. By 2015 it was full of leaves, yet till no blooms and I connected that to the birth of my writing career, progress slow and steady, but not published.

Here we are in 2017 and Baby Magnolia is ten years old and we have our first bloom, I see another one has developed since the weekend and I can’t help but smile. Patience does pay off. Again, I see a correlation with my writing career. I too have first bloom.

Although I have been a closet writer for a good part of my life, I didn’t get serious about it until 2014. Granted I have had a full, passionate and fullfilling career as an educator and I would never trade those years or wish them to finish prematurely, no matter what happens in the writing, teacher will be one of my labels for four to six more years. Of course if you ask me about it when the alarm goes off at five a.m., I will tell you I really look forward to the label retired teacher.

I say I got serious abut writing in 2014 because that is the year I consulted a professional and committed to a blog. It was also the year I wrote my first novel for publishing, I had written a few others, just for fun and not for public consumption. In 2015, like Baby Magnolia I had grown. I had proven myself disiplined enough to publish a weekly blog, but I was unsure of the next steps of getting my book, The Eyes Have It out into the world.

I had not bloomed. Then came 2016. I published two books last year and they did better than I had anticipated as an unknown author in a world full of books. I was encouraged. Perhaps when I retire from teaching, a writing career for an encore is a viable option. To keep the metaphor going I would say I finally produced a bud.

Here we are in June of 2017, book three is a short time from launch, books one and two are performing well and I, like Baby magnolia, appear to have a full bloom on the branch. I like to think years from now, both of us will be full of blooms.

Time, patience, persistence and most off all doing the work, those are the key ingredients to grow a career, no matter what field it is in. My wish for my students is that they grow up to live and work with purpose and fullfillment. If we follow our passions and focus on  culitvating a career and a life that contributes to our community and brings  joy to ourselves (Note I said joy and not money), then we ultimately bloom.

So, here we are with the first bloom. It is a reassuring sign to keep the faith and keep going. Plant those seedlings in your life, with a little care and patience you will be rewarded.

The Co-existing of Endings & Beginnings

 

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The Hwy 41 Old and New Bridge

A while ago I posted a picture of the small bridge right before the beginning of construction of the new bridge and wrote a blog about the loss of the charm in the name of progress.

The days of driving across the old bridge and feeling connected to the water are numbered. I am still a little sad about that, but I’m ultimately a practical person, much like my Grandmother Sawyer, I see little point of crying over what is done, if you don’t move along with the times, you get left behind in the dust. I believe getting caught in too much nostalgic thinking leads to early old age. Grandma lived to be 100 and she moved with the times exceptionally well for someone born before World War I.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have my friends the Martins, invite me out on their boat for a cruise under the bridges, down the Wando and out into the Charleston Harbor and back. I can appreciate how the new bridge means no longer worrying about tide level and if your boat will be able to get under it or not.

This got me thinking about how old or new, things have their positives and their negatives. I also reflected how even as something comes to an end, there is rarely a void, the new, or the beginning overlaps or abuts the end.

I find this very apt in my teaching life, as I along with a chunk of our current staff are leaving our current school home to open a new school built nearby to alleviate overcrowding and serve new neighborhoods. There are positives and negatives, the negatives are primarily people I have to leave behind, fellow staff and families I won’t be able to teach their younger ones. However, some families are moving with me, as they live in the new attendance zone and I am moving with a principal and fellow staff, people I truly respect and love.

I’m still a little surprised to be making this transition. When we opened up Laurel Hill 12 years ago, I had believed that was the school I would retire from. At that time we had split from Pinckney due to overcrowding creating a k-2 school across the parking lot from what became the 3-5 school. It was exciting to migrate with my tribe and establish a new community. I am excited to be part of forming a new school community again.

It’s interesting times to be in the place where one phase is ending and one is beginning. Things are happening simultaneously and I find myself more reflective than usual. My emotions are in full swing and I am mentally and physically exhausted all at the same time. But I know from experience, this transition will bring growth and movement forward. This new school will be the final one in my career, I can say that because the transition from teaching into a full-time writing career is in sight, four to six years to be more exact. It will be three years from now before I will be able to commit to what it will be.

This new school will be the final one in my career, I can say that because the transition from teaching into a full-time writing career is in sight, four to six years to be more exact. It will be three years from now before I will be able to commit to what it will be. That is a transition I look forward to and also feel sad about at the same time, but I will have time to prepare and adjust to the idea.

So as the current endings bridge to the new beginnings, I have to cry a little and smile a lot, Moving forward is the road I must travel. New is not necessarily better, but it is a chance to refresh.

Forward, onward, upward, whichever you choose, I wish you movement in your life.

 

Endings are the First Step to a Beginning

 

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Sunset over the Charleston Harbor

The one constant in this life is ironically the fact that nothing stays the same. This is sometimes a relief and often disconcerting. My human experience so far has taught me I’m much more comfortable with the status quo and it sometimes takes a major event to nudge me off the cliff of the unknown. As the song goes, “Breaking up is hard to do.”

As I add to my years and I’d like to think my wisdom, I have realized a few things. First, if you approach a change with a little flexibility it makes for an easier transition. Second, if you are willing to take a risk, more often than not the reward will be greater than you could ever imagine. Finally, I have learned that change is going to happen whether you want it or not and if you reflect back it is easy to see how you have always come through the change stronger, wiser or fill in the blank for the attribute that made you better.

I still don’t rush out looking for opportunities to deal with change, but I am much more willing to accept it and even embrace it.  Case in point, I am changing to a new school next year. Not because there is anything wrong with my current school, in fact leaving it is hard on my heart. We are overcrowded and some of us are going to transition to a new building to start a brand new school. I am excited to be part of that and the change is made easier by the fact I am not making this change alone, but with colleagues I have worked with for years. Regardless, I have chosen this change.

Not all changes can be chosen. Some are thrust upon us in cruel and unexpected ways. The death of a loved one, the diagnosis of a disease, the break-up of a relationship, the betrayal of a friend. I have found if I am grounded in faith and thoughtful in my responses to these unwelcome events, I can navigate through them somehow intact.

Yes, change is a constant, but so is the passage of time. The sun will set and then rise again. Each day is an opportunity to live this life better, to embrace the changes and see where they will take us. So yes all things, good and bad and indifferent will come to an end, but these endings are really just the mile marker to the beginning.

 

What Time Is It?

 

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My favorite watch.

I have been hyper-focused on time since the beginning of 2017. The passage of time, time management, how much time I have to do certain things or how little, depending on the subject.

I feel like the older I get, the faster time seems to pass. Sometimes when I look back I am overwhelmed by what I accomplished in 2016. I feel equally overwhelmed by what I need to accomplish in the coming year. So I take a deep breath and think about how no matter how I proceed, it will be day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute.

I am one busy girl. I teach full time, I tutor, and I write novels and try to learn about and manage all that goes into the life of an author. Plus I take care of a household and maintain relationships and carve out a little me-time here and there. It takes careful time management to make it work and occasionally I get off plan. Deep breathing. a step back, a re-prioritizing and then we’re back on track.

Like every adult, there are things we must do and things we want to do. Balancing that can be exhausting, sometimes I really wish there were twenty-six hours in a day. I also wish that there were times we could slow the passage of time down, think more days with our elderly loved ones. At other times I wish we could speed it up, think standing in line at the DMV.

The passage of time is unmerciful. We can let it have great influence in how we live our lives, or we can go with the flow as the optimists like to say. I hope when I get to the end of my life, ideally, age 108, I will be able to look back and think I used my time on this earth wisely. I also hope I managed to work in a fair number of days where I frittered the hours away doing things that brought me joy.

We don’t know how much time we have ultimately, but we do know it is finite. If you think about it too much you can stress yourself right out. As I’m typing this I’m stressing that I have only a few hours to get some chores done before I have to get into bed. Maybe I need to give myself permission to put some things off for another day and instead get some good snuggles in with my golden retrievers. I think it is safe to say at the end of my life I won’t be remembering how great it was that I got that other load of laundry done on a Wednesday night. Yes, the laundry will need to get done at some point, but if I only have so much time to spend, I want to spend it on more important things.

So I am choosing to think about time as a gift with an expiration date. I am going to make the most of the time I’ve got.

 

 

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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!