Embracing The Coyote

 

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The patch covering up my loggerhead turtles on my student seat sacks for our new school. The Design is by Melissa Gaddy, very talented owner of Marsh Grass Monogramming.

 

Almost 13 years ago, my school was over crowded and we split by grades, K-2 moving into our own school with the cute mascot of Loggerhead turtle. Living in the South Carolina Lowcountry with many of our communities championing the sea turtles, it was a natural fit and I loved it.

Presently these two split schools have become overcrowded again, a consequence of living in paradise and having the likes of Conde Nast declare you the top destination. So the new split brings prek-5 back under one roof in the new Carolina Park Elementary and our new mascot is the Coyote.

It was bittersweet to leave the school I thought I was going to retire from. I miss those left behind, but so grateful for the ones taking the journey with me. I miss the idea of a school focused on the primary grades, but love that I will see former students grow and will have older kids to do collaborative projects with for my students.

One thing I have been resisting is the idea of a Coyote over a turtle. But when the color scheme of blue, green and gray was introduced and the very talented Melissa Gaddy of Marsh Grass Monogramming made the coyote more cute than fierce, I began to warm to the idea.

Yesterday I got to take a tour of the new building with fellow faculty and staff. I was blown away by the natural light and the finishes. I am in love with the storage that is built into the rooms. Here I am a 25 year veteran of teaching and I feel giddy like a new teacher.

I have approximately 4 to 6 years to cap off my educational career before I turn to writing full-time. I am truly thrilled to have such a beautiful place to pass those years. While I will always be more of a fan of the beach and native creatures that make the Lowcountry their habitat. I might just find I enjoy howling at that palmetto moon too.

The Sweet Side of Summer

WP_20170727_006Are you aware that it’s National Ice Cream month? As if we needed an excuse to enjoy a creamy cold treat in July. I am happy to recognize the designation and consume my fair share, you know, to be supportive . . .

I have my favorites, coffee, dulce de leche and vanilla, but I enjoy more exotic flavors like black raspberry truffle or ginger. I recently discovered Red Velvet Cake ice cream, win-win for me, I love ice cream and I love red velvet cake. I even enjoy soft serve.

I have so many happy memories associated with ice cream. My Papa, my mother’s daddy used to take us down to get a soft serve in a small town down the road. If we ate coffee ice cream at the house, he liked to top it with cool whip. Often I would be sent out into the part of the house called the summer kitchen where there was a big trunk-like freezer to fetch the ice cream and or the cool whip. I was short, okay I still am, but imagine me kid short. So, I had to have a strategy to get them out.  I would lift the lid and peer over the top to see where they were. Then I would back up, take off at a run, launch myself onto the freezer’s edge, balancing on my belly. I would rock in, grab the ice cream and rock back out. Hard work, but always worth it. My parents and I have also made a Christmas tradition of getting our own pint of ice cream to enjoy for Christmas dessert, not eaten in one sitting, to clarify.

I can pass up a lot of desserts. But I don’t think I have ever turned down a bowl of ice cream.  It makes me smile and instantly puts me in relaxation mode. Let’s face it, a bowl of ice cream almost requires a meditative kind of concentration. You can’t text, or computer surf or much else. It takes a little effort to stir and smooth your ice cream so it is not too stiff or too soft and time is of the essence. The delight of the cool on your tongue and then the sliding down the throat. It is a simple but exquisite pleasure.

It’s a shame that I can’t call it a healthy food, so it does not find a place in my freezer on a regular basis. I have decided that when I get to be eighty, I am going to allow myself a small bowl nightly. For now, it is on occasion out on the town, or summertime in my freezer and of course Christmas.

I savor every creamy spoonful and that is something I think we could apply to other things in life. Savor and enjoy.

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.

 

Shared Blood, Shared Love

 

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My cousin Susan and I somewhere off the coast of Maine Early 1970’s.

I have five cousins, three on my mother’s side and two on my father’s side. But only one close to my age. My cousin Susan is a little over two years older than I am, the rest are many years older or many years younger. As an only child, I was fascinated by the fact she had siblings. She is the closest to a sibling I will ever have.

Growing up in a military family,  we only saw each other every few summers and several Christmases but the time together is vivid in my memory. I worshiped her as older, I was jealous of her for living way closer to our grandparents and, I loved those magical times when it was the two of us connected and conspiratorial.

One Christmas, we convinced out Papa to let us cut down a small tree from his property and put it in the bedroom we were sharing. We decorated it and tried to convince everyone we should get up at five a.m for Christmas morning.

There were summers searching for sea glass in the coves of small islands off the coast of Maine. Trips to the beach and lots of boating. There was the two of us in our Laura Ashley dresses for our grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.

We did not always see eye to eye, I am sure sometimes I came off as the pesky younger cousin to entertain when she would rather be with her friends, like in middle school and high school. Then there was that time I got frustrated following her lead in our play and I dropped the piano key covers down on her hands. I instantly regretted it and I think it was the only time I did something mean-spirited towards someone, I imagine much like a sibling. That one moment still flashes in my mind whenever I want to lash out at someone in anger and it keeps me from acting.

As we have led our adult lives living in different states, our lives have been more apart than together, but this summer we made the effort to reconnect. For me, it was a renewal of that bond we have through blood and our shared love of water. We had this reunion at her beach house in Nags Head.

I was reminded of how little family I have and how I need to take more care to nurture those bonds. I have always lived far from family, so it seems natural, but as we age and especially as we see our parent’s age, we need each other more than we used to. After all, family shares a narrative unique to them.  Simply put she is truly the only one in our generation who knows our story.

I hope we will continue to make the effort to see each other more often. We both have property near beaches and there are plenty of them between us. Salt water and blood flow through us and our shared history. That with love will be the tie that binds.

 

 

A Glass Ceiling Not To Break

 

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The glass ceiling in my parent’s conservatory

This is not a politcal piece or a feminist piece, so if that is what you are expecting from the title you might be disappointed. This is about the magic of a glass ceiling. A canopy with a view.

I’m currently at my parent’s house, a mostly annual summer visit. I enjoy spending time with them and in the beautiful part of Virginia in which they reside. It is a respite from the daily grind and the dogs and. I love the hilly two-mile route we take for our morning walks.

I especially enjoy the glass room on the back of the house that my parent’s refer to as the conservatory. The ceiling and the walls on three sides are glass. Within those three glass walls are many windows that can open and the space also has a heating and cooling unit, so it truly can be used year-round.

The light in the conservatory is bright but filtered by a great canopy of trees that hang overhead. I love to lay on the sofa out there and strare up between the branches to catch sight of the blue and the clouds floating by. If this were my house I would be tempted to make this my writing studio.

The room feels airy and tree-house like. The light changes as the day passes and you feel connected to the nature that surrounds the space. Squirrels sometimes drop nuts on the roof and that an be a little unsettling, but I love watching the birds, especially the cardinals that flit among the branches and the bird feeder.

This is a room that calms and soothes. It is also a great place to take a nap. I’d like to say I have done some incredible writing in this space, but I have to admit I like to just be in there and daydream or read. Perhaps if I got to enjoy it more than a week each year, I might be able to get down to business in there.

We all need a space in our homes that is a respite from the world. A place to recharge and spark our creativity. At home I would say my room I call the library (because it has tall bookcases full of books and two leather chairs) is that space. Although I find the beach and the waterways through the lowcountry to be powerful places to rejuvenate and inspire.

Here under this canopy of glass I can’t help but feel all is right with the world.

This is one glass ceiling I hope will never be shattered.

 

 

If you cross the line, tap the roof!

 

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Tapping the roof at the South Carolina/North Carolina Border

A number of years ago I traveled with some of my Charleston friends to Sewanee, where two of our newly wedded friends were attending the Episcopal seminary. It was a memorable trip for a variety of reasons.

For one, road tripping with friends is always an adventure and it was enjoyable sharing the journey. It was a glorious fall weekend and the scenery was spectacular. We also attended a soul stirring service on campus. But the most memorable part of the trip was learning about a custom practiced by those who travel to and from Sewanee. When you leave campus, you tap the roof to summon your guardian angel to travel with you. The idea is that Sewanee is a little piece of heaven so when there you are protected, but out in the big wide world, a little extra protection is needed.

This struck me as a charming tradition and I adopted it as a personal custom when I travel. Now I suppose to some this may mark me as eccentric, but I’m okay with that. Aren’t we all eccentric to some degree? Plus writers should be even more so. Of course I don’t live on the hallowed ground of Sewanee, but I do live in the hallowed state of South Carolina. The lowcountry has a beauty I would equate with Eden, and the people of South Carolina have loving, beautiful souls, just look at how we handled the Mother Emanuel shooting. We are not a perfect people and there are ugly things in our past, but we continue to grow and improve by loving our fellow citizens.

Okay, you know I love South Carolina, it is my little piece of heaven on earth. So, back to my personal custom. When I leave South Carolina, at the border in the car, or as the plane takes off, I make the sign of the cross and tap the roof. I suppose on the plane I really tap the underside of the storage compartment, but that will have to suffice, I don’t mind being eccentric, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m crazy by standing up on an airplane and jumping up to tap the roof.

My guardian angel safely on-board, I roam away from home with some peace of mind. I also have a return tradition. When I re-enter South Carolina, I kiss my finger tips and tap the roof, telling my guardian angel thank you and take a break, we are home.

 

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.”

 

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.