Hooked. . . My Own Lizzie Moment

 

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My Holiday Blouse Purchased with Book Signings In Mind

For those of you who have read my books, The Eyes Have It and The Heart Knows It, then you are familiar with my heroine, Lizzie. Many who know me well say there is a lot of me in Lizzie and I have to admit she and I and kindred spirits in some ways. The biggest way would be when we are trying to be graceful in our movement we don’t always pull it off.

Lizzie is prone to falls and freak accidents with water pipes.  I have walked into a concrete column after a kiss and had a folding chair collapse on me in the middle of a crowd enjoying a band at our local Blessing of the Fleet.

This beautiful blouse led me to my latest moment. Luckily my folly was only witnessed by my very kind neighbor who rescued me.  You may notice that this blouse is full of holes. The crochet effect is part of what makes it stunning. I have to admit for my two book signings Saturday, at my alma mater, College of Charleston Alumni Weekend and at the Charleston Holiday Market up at the convention center, I received lots of compliments. Unfortunately, there is a hidden danger, at least for those of us prone to embarrassing moments.

To compliment my snazzy holiday outfit, I had pulled out my equally eye-catching, red-quilted and black patten leather purse with its gold chain straps.As I was departing to the first of the two signings, I tossed the purse onto my shoulder feeling like a fashion plate. I walked out to the car and went to take the purse off my shoulder to place in the car. To my surprise, the chain on the purse was attached to one of the crochet sections on the arm of the blouse.

Know it is important to know the purse was not only laden with the typical items, but it had my tablet and its charger in it as well as a few extra items I thought I might need at my two events. the weight alone would tear my new blouse easily. So I supported the bag in my hand and much like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, lurched across the street all bent over, praying my neighbor Kate would be home.

Fortunately for me, she was. With amusement on her face, she graciously extricated me and complimented me on my outfit. She spared me laughter, although I suspect she had a good laugh sharing the moment with her husband after I left. This does not bother me at all, I have much experience providing folks with something to laugh about.

So  lesson learned, keep purse away from  the blouse, or use a purse with no chains…Either way, I am proud to have my Lizzie moments. After all, Lizzie finally gave me the courage to become an author.

 

What a Difference a Year Can Make

November 2014 to November 2015

November 2014 to November 2015

Can 365 days bring about significant change?  I would say mere minutes can, just ask those whose lives have been forever altered by the too many to name mass tragedies that seem to be almost common place in our modern society.  In our own lives some years are a watershed of change, while others seem to keep the status quo. Certain holidays or anniversaries of important events, societal or personal, cause us to reflect back on the year since the last marking of that date. I think this is a good practice, it reminds us how far we’ve come and provides us with an evaluation of sorts for moving forward. A friend was sharing with me the other day how amazed she was at how I had handled an ugly personal situation with grace and compassion towards the person whose actions were full of betrayal, hurt and caused chaos not just in my life but in the lives of others.  She joked that I probably would have responded much differently a year earlier, after all I was “older” now.  We laughed at the idea that one year older could bring about that much maturity, but on reflection I really do think this past year has been seminal in my personal growth and has brought a profound shift in my outlook on life.

I was born in November so my personal new year is at hand. On the surface this past year has been full of some important developments in my professional life.  I am still completely committed to my teaching career and have at least four to six more years I plan to dedicate to it, but I have also made a commitment to my writing career.  I have been faithful to posting a weekly blog, I have completed two novels and submitted them to a publisher and I have been working on book three.  I am no longer dabbling in writing I identify myself as writer. My writing life has gone from an exploration to a full commitment.  It also feeds my soul.

Last November I had experienced three of the five deaths that were pivotal to my examination of my life and how I wanted to live it.  The fourth, last Spring and the fifth just a month ago solidified my commitment to living that renewed life.  It is not that from November 2013 to November 2014 I did not have moments of joy or appreciation for my days and the people in them, its just that I was not as aware and attune to them on a daily basis. That year was a status quo year, and we all need years like that. After the first three deaths, one of a terminally ill older woman, who was a second mother to me for decades, one of a smart witty woman who I had the privilege to work for,  she was cruelly taken early with the added insult of an aggressive dementia that took her long before she stopped breathing and the third to a young college freshman who as a high school senior had found a place in my heart, a truly remarkable young woman who had such great gifts, I was profoundly shaken.  Life to one-hundred or one-hundred and eight, my personal goal, was tentative at best.  Each day truly is a gift and life is what you make of it. I did not have the luxury of the status quo if I really wanted to build a better life.

So I chose to make each day a day of gratitude this past year, some days that has been more challenging than others but what I have found was the more I worked at it, the easier it got.  In tandem I worked on my spiritual life, in particular faith, that God has me and despite what goes on here on the temporal plane,  there is a greater plan.  That means regardless of what chaos is swirling around, I am insulated in a core of peace.  If I am going to talk the talk then I must walk the walk, which means I must view my fellow human beings with compassion and love and each day that has become easier and easier.  A year ago and prior I might have let chaos derail me, lash out in anger at others or judge them harshly. Now even though I feel hurt, I am also at peace knowing that I have done my best to love and care for others.  Who am I to judge? I am as flawed and complex as those around me, that is part of being human. I choose to build up rather than tear down.

I can say I am truly a happy and joy-filled soul.  I still have the daily challenges of life like everyone else, but it is how I face them that has changed. So yes a year can truly make a difference and I would say it took way less than a year to make the adjustment. When I reflect back in November 2016 I hope I can say that not only did I continue to walk the walk, but that by being compassionate and loving towards my fellow beings I helped to make them happy and joy-filled souls as well.

So a year older, a year wiser, a year kinder, that is the difference a year can make.

Kicking Into High Gear

The outward sign of my internal awakening

The outward sign of my internal awakening

I have been in the midst of a transformation of sorts.  For friends who have known me a long time, they will recognize it as my once a decade tendency to shake things up.  I did it in my 20’s and my 30’s so it should not come as a surprise it is happening again in my 40’s.  The catalyst this time, too many deaths in a short period of time.  It made me stop and think about what I have done with my life so far, but more importantly what I want to do with my life going forward.  After all I can’t change what has past, but the future is full of possibility. I have often said I plan to live to be 100, I recently changed that to 108, I have decided I want to see America’s 300th birthday, after all I remember the 200th, the summer before my 8th birthday.

So what do I want the next 61 years to look like?  I am not completely sure, but I do know I want to fill each day with people who matter not things.  I want to travel again, I used to do a lot more of it.  I want to spend more time doing social things with fun and interesting people and treasure the tried and true friends of which I am blessed to have many. I want to be a light in the world,  give more than I take, to see the best in others and celebrate the blessings that are in the everyday. I want to forgive and be forgiven, I want to meet all challenges with love, compassion and can-do spirit. The really beautiful thing about transforming this time Is being over forty which brings with it the advantage of being comfortable in my own skin.  I have re-lit my inner light, I don’t think it really went out, it was just down to a flicker because I did not tend it.  Lately it seems it has gone from a lone candle to a roaring bonfire.

The outward signs are new clothes, refreshed make-up and the joy I am told I emanate on a daily basis, despite anything negative that swirls around, professional or personal. Even my boss has complimented me on my attitude. My new red boots are a symbol of the inner confidence and positive attitude I feel. How I came to get them is a bit of serendipity.  I came upon them quite by chance, fell immediately in love and then it got even better, a sale and an extra discount just available that day! I swear I could hear Darius Rucker singing in my head. If ever a girl was meant to have a pair of boots . . . pure serendipity.

I am still grounded by my values and my faith, I would even say my faith has given me the freedom to transform to be more and the assurance the path to do so will be travelled with me by my better angels.  The future holds great things, hopefully a writing career to transition into as my teaching years eventually draw to a close (sometime in the next decade). But more than a career path or the gains the future holds, I want to make sure I don’t lose what this moment in time has given.  I do not want to slip back into complacency by going through the motions or settling for less than what is possible.  Each day is a gift whether I have a few more or thousands more to live.  I want to put on my red boots, walk with some sass in my step and kick myself forward.  So grateful for this wondrous life and the opportunity I have each day to live it fully with love.

B.Y.O.G and B.Y.O.H, Are you all in?

My B.Y.O.G. Shirt

My B.Y.O.G. Shirt

The Clemson Tiger head coach is an awesome coach, not because he is in the middle of a winning season, but because he gets what it takes to be all in.  Recently he was reported to have told his players, that even though he could teach them the finer points to the game of football and design plays and hold the players accountable for practice, what he could not do for them was the very thing the players would need to win each game.  The players themselves had to bring their own guts and heart onto the field with them, they had to be all in. While this was a great inspiration for the sports field I heard it as an even better inspiration for life. I believe this is an essential truth  The opportunities we are given via education, the experiences we gain in working a career path, The complicated dance of give and take, ups and downs we have in the many kinds of relationships we have with other human beings are not enough if we don’t bring the guts and the heart to our lives and how we live them.  To be fully engaged and reap the biggest blessings we have to be all in.  That means doing the hard work with passion and purpose.  It means caring for and loving others even when they can’t give you the same level in return at this moment.  It means having patience with a child even when they are being difficult.  It means going the extra mile for a client, or student or co-worker.  All in is putting your best out there with perseverance, determination, and love.  You have to be brave, take risks and make sacrifices.  But isn’t it all worth it?  If you are all in, you will get the max out of this beautiful life you have been given.  The romans were on to something with their motto, Carpe Diem! Seize the day, and do it with all that you have, with all of your guts and most importantly all of your heart. I vow to live this life B.Y.O.G. and B.Y.O.H., I am all in.

Talking With Angels

Angels in a park in Paris, France

Angels in a park in Paris, France

I have always found comfort in the idea that those we love who have passed on are with us as guardian angels, giving us comfort, sending us signs and helping us find our paths. In moments of turmoil I have sworn I have caught a whiff of my papa’s pipe tobacco, I believe a sign that he is with me and it will be alright. I am as a rule. the glass is half full, walk on the sunny side of life personality, so I feel sadness, doubt and heartache acutely. The darker side of life is not a place I feel comfortable.  Thank goodness I have my faith and angels to light my way through the dark.  I recently found myself at a friend’s grave sitting in the grass and talking things over with her, the tears flowed freely down my face as I talked and tied blades of grass into a ribbon, wishing she would appear and while I did not have visual contact with her, a sudden breeze caressed my face and in that moment I felt the peace and comfort of her saying “It will be okay.”  I found myself wishing I could trade places with her, I want her to be here. I don’t comprehend why she was taken. I am glad she is no longer suffering and I have no doubts that she is among the angels, but there are children here who still need her. Those of us left here on the earth are blessed to have her looking out for us, but I would happily be a guardian angel for her and them if it meant she could be here as they grow.  At this point in life I have had my fair share of grief and saying goodbye to loved ones. The grief lives in me and will sneak out in surprising moments. The sight of a doe or certain music from the age of Sinatra bring my Grandma to mind. My papa (my mother’s daddy) passed away on Father’s Day my junior year of high school, that is several decades back now and I feel that loss still, not as a searing pain, but a wistful awareness of his absence. Each person I have lost since then, I have grieved deeply and found my way to keeping them in a special place in my heart. Some, like my Grandma Sawyer and my friend,  I talk to quite frequently, they are wise women I love, and I trust they will guide me when I need them to. When I got up from the grass after a deep conversation, I found it jarring to come back to the land of the living and felt the disconnect as I ran a quick errand to Wal-Mart for printer ink. But as the day progressed, the peace of my talk with an angel settled over me. The heaviness in my heart lightened and the emotions that had me in turmoil when I went to the cemetery seemed to simmer down and sort themselves out.  Life is sometimes hard and the cliché that no man is an island rings true for me.  I am blessed for the many among the living I call family and friend who cheer me on and just love me for me, but I am doubly blessed by the angels who walk and talk with me, lift me up and watch over me.

Enchanted Evening

A Thursday Night at Home

A Thursday Night at Home

This past Thursday night I was blessed to spend a few hours with two of the best kids ever (I fully admit I am biased here). It happened to be the eve of the anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, that still brings tears to my eyes and ache to my heart fourteen years later and I honestly hope it always will.  Otherwise it will cease to be a reminder that we do have a choice to make the world a better place, to not allow the evil in the world to win. After the kids and their adorable puppy went home, I got on Facebook and read many touching posts about honoring those lost on 9-11 and it got me thinking about what is a meaningful way to honor them.  There are grand gestures, donations to charities and moments of silence among many options, but I would like to offer the thought that while remembering on the anniversary is honorable and respectful, perhaps how we live our lives the other days of the year are equally important.  There are a few things I believe wholeheartedly: One, We can not live in fear or the terrorists win. Go out, travel, participate in the world. Two, Love can and will triumph over the evil in this world. And third, making this world a better place is more about daily living, the way we treat others and the attitude we choose to take, than about the grander events that are newsworthy.  Having said that I would like to share with you the enchanted evening I spent with these precious young souls and what I learned.  While I prepared  a meal of a  from scratch Alfredo sauce and tortellini and peas and pancetta, the kids worked on homework and played with the three dogs who were having a blast on their own playdate. We sat down to the table and I shared a blessing from a book of blessings before we broke our bread.  After cleaning up dinner we did some more schoolwork, the older one asking for extra practice with multiplying and dividing integers and I quickly found some worksheets on line (Is that not a dream student who asks for extra homework? The teacher in me was thrilled!). After quizzing the younger one on continents and oceans we had ice cream and set up the board game Clue. While the twelve year-old and I battled our deductive reasoning skills, the seven year old paraded around the house in my high heels.  Throughout the evening we laughed, shared our thoughts and just enjoyed each others company.  If these two are a representative sample of the generation of the future, I believe we are in good hands. None of the things we did that night were extraordinary, but they should be treasured just the same.  9-11 on a grand scale reminded the world how precious life is, even the every day activities of homework, dinner and play.  Before 9-11 many people took the daily blessings like spending such an evening for granted.  For a short time after, they vowed to change that, I would venture to guess many after a time, allowed busyness and other priorities to creep back in, we are all guilty of taking the everyday for granted.  This particular evening reminded me to guard against that.  Despite working all day, spending my evening this way fed my soul and revitalized my spirit, what a blessing!  I look forward to many more enchanted evenings with my loved ones reveling in the ordinary and wish for you the same.

Charleston Grace

Grace Episcopal Church Wentworth Street Charleston, SC The church I was confirmed in.

Grace Episcopal Church Wentworth Street Charleston, SC The church I was confirmed in.

Like the nation and the world, I am horrified by the events on June 17th at the AME church on Calhoun street in Charleston.  I weep for the loss of life.  I am shocked it happened in such a sacred place.  I am sad that such a young person could be filled with such hate.  I also am so proud of the grace our community has shown as the events have rapidly unfolded.  It has not even been forty-eight hours since this tragedy has unfolded, yet people of all walks in our community have come together in unity.  Charleston has long been at the top of lists giving accolades for being polite and friendly.  Visitors I am sure wonder if all the yes ma’ams and sirs, the smiles and door holding are sincere or a show we put on for tourists. that politeness and friendliness is just an outward sign, the surface of what underlies our community and it’s values.  The true measure of a person is not how they act in happy situations, but how they conduct themselves in adversity and the same is true of a community.  We are far from perfect.  We have members of our community who do not work for the good of all, but I would argue they are few and far between.  In Hurricane Hugo, and other weather disasters, wrongful shootings, animal cruelty, no matter what the adversity the majority in our community comes together to lift each other up.  We respond to hate with love.  We take on our problems with hope, encouragement and compassion.  Maybe it has something to do with being the “Holy City”, we practically have a place of worship on every corner, and that includes all faiths. The church I have posted above has Grace as it’s name.  It is where I was confirmed in my faith.  Immediately behind it is another church. Several blocks away there are synagogues and many other churches of many other denominations, our city has a long standing history of supporting America’s freedom to worship, one of our country’s founding pillars. Our southern charm is deeper than our friendly hospitality. Our community responds in action that echo our words of welcome and our expressions of love. Charleston is an example of grace in a world that lately seems to have grown a bit dark.  Charleston’s Grace is the loving people who call her home.