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.

 

Cut and Polish will lead to Shine

 

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Notes from my editor

In the last year, I have written several posts about my favorite parts of the author life: cover design, meeting readers, and of course writing stories. Today I am working on one of my least favorite parts.

If the picture didn’t clue you in, it’s editing. I am not opposed to a professional correcting, cutting, adding. I am fairly global in my approach to writing, I am all about the story, I admit (and I’m sure to disappoint the grammarians out there) I have a hard time focusing in on the details such as when I should use an em-dash. I am grateful there are people who not only focus on such things, but they have a passion for it. The only time an edit upset me was when the editor didn’t recognize a certain character did not use contractions when they spoke. The character was an older southern woman whose diction was drawn out, naturally she wouldn’t say wouldn’t, she would say would not.

No, I hate editing, because it is so tedious. I also find with all the lines and color changes in an edit it is difficult to see the story and how those changes might impact it. However, I understand that all that cut and polish is what makes my story truly shine.

Of course, it has not escaped me that I’m blogging about editing rather than jumping into the task of reviewing the edit. I am well aware of my own avoidance tactics. I love when I get to pages with very little red or blue notations. As much as I say I don’t care about the grammar details, I give myself an “atta girl” when I come across those pages. I was not an English major in college, although I had an excellent senior high school English Teacher, Mrs. Dever and my freshman English professors in college were impressed with the skills she sent me with.

I want my work to be quality, I am humble enough to recognize it will always take the help of others to bring it to that level. Again I see how an author does not stand on their own, it is the quiet support team behind the scenes that elevates the work.

So, I can’t shirk my task any longer. I hope I will not be cross-eyed by the time I’m done. I know my brain will be wrung out. I also know the clarity and luster of The Soul Believes It will make the effort worthwhile.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Time To Get Down and Dirty

 

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This is what happens when you go to the garden center on a beautiful spring day.

I went in for a few ivy plants . . . as you can see I came away with much more. That is the risk you take when you visit the garden center on a beautiful spring day. Between the allure of the plants I also had time, it is Spring Break this week and day one was almost perfect.

I say almost because I started the day with a mammogram, but then I treated myself to a latte and then went to get my hair cut. On the way home I decided to pick up the ivy so I could replant the pots by my front door. Once there I had planned out my raised beds and my patio pots. So a car load later I made my way home.

I am on a deadline to finish book three and I diligently sat down and spilled about twelve-hundred words from my soul, before taking a gardening break. After an hour of mowing and playing in the dirt, I returned to write another thousand words before taking a pre-arranged conference call about an upcoming author’s panel I’m participating, in Greenville, South Carolina in May. Then I went back to the chapter and around a thousand words later, I was satisfied with Lizzie’s progress on her journey and I was drained of my creative juices. Another hour and a half in the garden and I feel charged again.

Charged and filthy dirty.  The only thing that could make this day better is if someone of the handsome and kind variety was whipping up dinner in the kitchen.  I love days like these when the ordinary things are enjoyed and savored. This is how I imagine the days will be when I move from teacher and writer to full-time writer.

There is something in the ancient part of my genes that responds to the garden. I don’t think my ancestors were city dwellers. I still yearn to be a genteel gardener whose gloves never get dirt on the inside and manages to still look presentable at the end of a session amongst the flowers. I blame Hollywood for this unattainable ideal. I’m happy to settle for dirt streaked limbs and face with my hair plastered against my head.

Gardening is life affirming. It stimulates the senses and inspires the artist within. I can hardly wait until I get to do it again tomorrow.

 

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.

 

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.