The Busy Season

 

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My current to-do list of which I can only claim to have completed four items on…

 

2017 has flown by at a frenetic pace, punctuated by upheaval in the world, in our country and in my own personal sphere. Happily, the upheaval in my own little world has been all about positive changes. Even the positive changes have added to the workload and required adjustments that have contributed to the break-neck pace living this life has become this year.

I don’t know why I thought the holidays would be any different. Normally I have most of my shopping complete, my cards printed and sent and if the house isn’t completely sparkling all the decorating is complete.

I have completed about ninety-five percent of the decorating, but the house, in general, is a disaster and I haven’t even taken the picture for the Christmas Card let alone ordered it.  This year might have to be a New Year’s  card and as the days fly by and I am getting more comfortable with that idea.

Company is coming in before my teaching is done so I will be cleaning and finishing report cards simultaneously. I think New Year’s Eve will be spent sleeping if I’m still alive by then.

I hate that this year is like this, I try to embrace the intent of the season, peace, joy, love, and while I will find moments to feel all that, I accept this year is just not the year I can revel in it. First New Year’s Resolution, take back life in 2018, at least once the school year is over and next Christmas will be prepared for months ahead so that when it arrives I can soak it all in.

For now, maybe the house won’t be as clean as my usual standards and some of my shopping might not get finished until Christmas Eve, cards will not be mailed on time and for this crazy year, maybe that’s alright.

 

 

An Endless Love Affair

 

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Looking from Rockville over to Seabrook

 

You would think after thirty-one years here in the South Carolina Lowcountry I would take foregranted my surroundings. When you tend to live somewhere it is typical to ignore the area offerings such as museums unless you have company. I see vistas of marsh, river, and ocean on a daily basis and I adore those views, they instantly calm me and make me thankful for getting to live in this beautiful place.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to ride with friends out to a house in Rockville, which is still a pristine village much like it was back in the 1800’s when this particular house was built. I could easily imagine a life here away from traffic and our crazy suburban sprawl. If only I was retired and didn’t have to think about the practical things such as commuting to work!

The house built in 1829 was loaded with character and a gem by itself, but it was the water views that took my breath away. I never tire of looking across the water and marsh. I often wonder if I had this view from my back porch, would I be too distracted to write or would I just find my creative well constantly replenished?

I’m not sure but I would be more than willing to find out. I think I might have to write a book where a lucky character will get to live in this charming house with this magical view and I can live vicariously through them.

I truly hope that when I’m one-hundred and eight (the age I am planning on living to) my love affair with the South Carolina Lowcountry will still burn with the same intensity it does today. Considering that fire has been steady for thirty-one years I can’t imagine it will ever burn out.

Southern Girl Rule #63: An Iron is Essential.

 

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Ironing pillowcases for the guest room

I have a love-hate relationship with my iron.  Okay, it’s mostly a hate relationship, I find clothing in particular difficult to iron (which is why I have a steamer for those), not sure if it has to do with being a leftie or my lack of patience.  I do enjoy the zen of ironing a linen napkin or tea towel, but those items are about the only ones I feel confident tackling.

So why am I ironing pillowcases? My guest room will soon be occupied, and while I would clean and iron for any guest, my mama and daddy are expected in tomorrow. Hence the effort with the pillowcases. It might be a generational thing, but mama always seems to have a stack of ironing. Me on the other hand, if I can get it out of the dryer fast enough and hung, that’s good enough for me.

A few wrinkles have never bothered me, but I clearly remember my mother’s dismay if I tried to leave the house for school in something that needed a little ironing. I still will hear her voice when I’m getting dressed. I think,  Is this passable or does it need ironing? I suppose it has saved me from going about town like a bag lady. I have often chosen what to wear based on what doesn’t need ironing.

You would think I would invest in clothing made from synthetics that don’t require ironing, but I have an affinity for natural fibers, particularly cotton and linen, the two types of cloth that require the most ironing. Ironic I know.

As I worked on the pillowcases, I realized it’s not about the wrinkles, but did I put in the effort, did I represent myself and my family in the best possible light.? The answer should be yes. Ironing is a way to show you care enough to make the effort. Even if your results are less than professional (Don’t look too closely at my work).

So despite it being up there with vacuuming, my least favorite chore, I will press on, pun intended!

 

Awaiting Irma’s Impact

 

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water supply including the fur babies

School has been canceled and I gratefully slept in this morning. For over a week Irma has been clamoring for my attention and I began by evaluating what I had in my hurricane supply kit and what needed to be replaced or supplemented. As she maintained her ferocity I made contact with my go to place in the upstate to make sure the fur babies and I would be welcome. I made a list of the things I would need to pack to take with and what I would need to to do in the house and yard, some of which is on the agenda today,

On Social media, people are already grumbling about the fact we didn’t have school today, and while I might have preferred working a least a half day today so it would be one less day to make up, I again am grateful for the time to secure the classroom yesterday afternoon and have a two day window to take care of the house, yard and evacuate if needed.

We are still twenty-four to thirty-six hours for knowing the actual impacts to expect, but the track last night and this morning indicate my evacuation place will get the same or possibly more impacts than the lowcountry. So I will press on with prep and be glad to be busy and not glued to the TV for every minor shift in track and wind. A decision to leave will have to be made by Sunday morning, regardless the house and yard will need to be prepared.

Having lived in the lowcountry for thirty-one years I am now a hurricane veteran, my first being the devastating Hugo in 1989. I was a victim of the evacuation debacle of Floyd, had a crazy diverted route home from Mathew and have hunkered down at home for others. So I know it is better to be over-prepared and overly cautious with things like canceling school. Storms will do what they do, no matter what science tells meteorologists with all their models. A last minute jog either direction or a sudden slowing down or speeding up is always a possibility and can drastically change the circumstances for impact.

By Tuesday the tale of Irma in the lowcountry will be written and we will know what the impact is. Somehow I don’t believe it will be as life altering as Hugo. Those of us who lived here for Hugo describe life in terms of before and after Hugo, much like the country does for 9/11. The images of trees snapped like toothpicks, the crumpled metal roof of the house I lived in balled up like a tissue tossed on the street, the water mark on the wall about as tall as me and the coating of pluff mud on most of my belongings are still as vivid today as twenty-eight years ago. I imagine Texas will view life that way with Harvey being the divide in time.

Hugo taught me one thing that has stayed with me, things are just things. If I have my family, including the fur babies and we are safe and healthy, then I have everything I need. Houses and stuff can be replaced, pictures are a sad loss, but the losing of them doesn’t erase memories. So if you are in the path of Irma it may impact your life with inconveniences and problems but as long as you have your life and those of your loved ones, you are blessed beyond measure.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Saying Goodbye to the Season

 

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The door out to the garage

Well, the feast of the Epiphany has come and gone so now there is no question, it is time to say goodbye to the holiday season until next year. I have put away the tree, the mantle decorations and the various other decorations in the rooms around the house. The Christmas dishes are tucked back in the cupboard and the holiday linens have all been laundered and folded.

There are two things left to do. I need to take the wreath down from the front door, although with it’s cream ribbon and shells in the evergreen, I feel I can get a few more weeks out of it. The other task is dismantling the display of greetings on the door out to the garage. This has become one of my favorite parts of holiday decorating. I go in and out this door almost exclusively. That means I get to see all the fun pictures each and every day. I enjoy thinking about the friends and family who sent them. So needless to say, I am not really wanting to take them down.

It is sad to me that so many seem to have given up the tradition of sending a greeting card. I am glad that so many of the people I know still do. I love the picture ones, especially from the folks I don’t see all the time. I like to see how the children have grown in the past year and I adore when the family dogs or other pets are included in the pictures.  I like how my Aunt Nancy always tries to find a dog card to send to me, knowing how much I will enjoy that. I love the way the gesture of these cards makes me feel connected.

For the past few years, I have always ended up receiving enough cards to fill the door and I hope that is the case for years to come. I know this year’s display needs to come down soon, but not today…maybe tomorrow!

 

Christmas Ready

 

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Greetings at the Front Door

Wasn’t it just Christmas 2015? It sure feels that way until I think back on all that has happened in the last twelve months. Yet I am still surprised to be here, just days before Christmas 2017. Most of my preparations are done. I still need to finish preparing the guest room and make the big grocery store run. However, the house is decked out in its holiday finery.

The sparkle of the lights on the tree and the mantle are mesmerizing. In the dining room, the everyday artwork is stashed in my bedroom and in its place are my collection of blue Jul After Christmas plates from Denmark hang in place with ribbon and holly festooning them. the cupboard, the snowmen mugs, and the Christmas china is ready for duty. The holiday towels are in the guest bath as well as the kitchen. Even the coasters have been swapped out for their holiday counterparts.

Each year as I unpack all these items, I revel in the memories the objects evoke. Almost every item has a story or a connection to a loved one.  I love that the stockings hanging from my mantle were made by my friend Emily. I love that my reindeer that lights up, was brought to me one Christmas when I was in the hospital by my dear friend Gregg.  Many of my tree ornaments were gifted from my mother, a collection of angels, one for each year from the Metropolitan Museum of art and a collection of Lenox ornaments. I could go on and on.

For me, it is not the objects themselves that make them special, it is the connections to the people I love and cherish. I suppose they would not be so special if I had them up all year long. I do get a bit melancholy when it’s time to pack it all away for another year.

I try to be mindful and appreciative of all the blessings in this life and I find that this time of year that it becomes even more important. While I enjoy a beautifully decorated, almost magical environment for the holiday, you could take every one of the objects away as long as I wouldn’t lose the special people in my life.

I am content to savor this season, and I hope that like the old adage encourages I will keep Christmas in my heart the whole year long.

Merry Christmas y’all!

 

 

 

An Unexpected Vacation

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I have been trying to recover from my unexpected vacation (Thanks, Hurricane Matthew!) and it has been a tough week. I know that sounds crazy, who doesn’t appreciate the gift of a few days off from the daily grind. The expression, two sides to every coin, comes to mind.

First I should say I am truly blessed. My community of Charleston was largely spared significant damage. The only damage to my property was a mailbox knocked off its  post and a few items from the refrigerator to toss out. My classroom was as I left it. All my loved ones were safe and accounted for. I am thankful for all of that.

The negatives are nothing compared with what the people of Haiti or the flood victims here in the aftermath of the storm. But the stress has still taken its toll. The physical and mental exhaustion was surprising. I am a veteran of these storms. I survived Hugo, the nightmare of an evacuation from Floyd and many smaller events in the three decades I have lived here, so in the grand scheme of things, Mathew was not really a big deal. Yet my reaction to it tells me it was.

At first, I appreciated the chance to go visit my parents, especially since I could not go this past summer. I found myself taking long walks with the dogs in delightfully cooler weather. I attended an interesting dinner function with my parents where I met a cryptographer from World War Two, a couple working for democracy in Burma, and many other interesting people. I slept in and read the newspaper. Unlike the evacuation in Hugo, when I felt so isolated from home, this time, I stayed connected via Facebook and streaming the local Charleston news via computer. I also felt quite confident my house would be standing when I returned, unlike my downtown Charleston address I had in Hugo.

The return home was a bit traumatic for me and the dogs. 95 South was shut down in North Carolina and I had to re-route all the way to Charlotte. I journeyed on to Greenville where long-time friends sheltered us before we made it home the next day. Both Lucky and Ella were clingy for a few days and even cried when I went back to work on Tuesday. I think I would have cried as well if I wasn’t half asleep.

Now this week is under our belt and I have laid low this weekend, I think my reserves are filling back up. I find I can reflect and just be thankful that our brush with Mathew has left us relatively unscathed. Although I have come to the conclusion that I prefer to plan my vacations. But I suppose that is the crux of it, no matter what we plan, we have no idea what might be out there to stop and redirect us.

If that is not an argument for the “live-in-the-moment” camp, I don’t know what is. Yes, we are subject to the events that come at us unexpectedly, but we have the strength to handle it, even if we need some recovery time afterward.

So here is hoping for a normal and uneventful week. If not, well we will just have to roll with it!