Farwell and Thank You 2020!

Well we made it to the end of 2020 and while it may be a dark year in our collective history and personal lives, I would like to thank 2020 for the amount of light it provided as well. I haven’t blogged this year, frankly I haven’t done much writing this year at all. Partly because trying to be a teacher during a pandemic and pivoting the methods of teaching sharply last spring. and partly because I found this year leading me down a path of discovery and growth which has led to great personal growth and I believe a productive writing year for 2021.

Very few people on our planet have lived through a pandemic before and so much has changed since the last one, we have had to write the playbook as we’ve gone along. I don’t want to dwell on the politics that have gone on, personally I don’t think politics should have played a role in life and death circumstances. But I do think the pandemic gave us the opportunity to see what might need to be fixed politically and policy-wise in our great democracy, still not a perfect union, but I have faith we are still striving for it.

We have had an uncomfortable but necessary light shone on long-festering societal issues, from racism, poverty, access to basic needs in various communities, and civil discourse, the pandemic heightened the issues and also gave many Americans the pause in their normally busy lives to stop, listen and observe, whereas pre-pandemic we might have given these issues a passing nod, but just got on with life rather than engaging in dialogue and thought that I hope will lead us to make leaps in improvements in all these areas.

Personally, I was gifted the time to correct my priorities for consistency in fitness and other self-health care practices. ( I lost 23 pounds this year). While I have practiced my faith and bible study for a long time, this year it became deeper and I found great solace in letting go of the worry and putting it in God’s hands. I can walk by faith and find the blessings amidst the pain and tribulations of the time we are in. I am much more appreciative of the people in my life, from family, old friends and new. From the sisterhood (with a few brothers thrown in) of educators who have marched on and encouraged each other in the most challenging year of my so far 28 year teaching career. I have also become more appreciative of every day, the sunshine, nature, my home, my fur babies, in other words I have increased my attitude of graditude.

I did help a fellow educator write a timely book for parents on learning at home, not just for virtual school, but summer enrichment etc. I definitely prefer fiction writing, but it was cathartic to have some writing to do. I am encouraged that with a little disipline and as long as I can continue to teach in person all spring semester as we did this fall, I can again develop the routine of regular writing sessions and finish up a book that has been lingering in my self-made purgatory for all of 2020.

Thank you 2020 for reminding me of all the blessings I have and how faith and gratitude can be a light in the darkest of days. I can’t say I’m sad to see you go. Right before the holiday break I was explaining to my students that when we came back it would be 2021 and one of them said, “Yea! No more COVID!” I had to explain that just because the year changed it would not magically go away, but that while last new year’s we had optimism and no idea what was coming and the year went downhill, this 2021 was starting down and we were on a steady climb back up to the top. The kids actually cheered, it was apparent we all need that vision of hope to hold on to.

Welcome 2021, I have high hopes for you and I also have faith that you will deliver.

Bring It On 2019!



Wilbur, my resident party animal, plus neither dog would wear the glasses for a picture…

The last few days I have been able to indulge in some of my favorite morning television and of course, they were discussing resolutions and goals for the coming year and they also had on tape what the various personalities had said for 2018 on tape, playing back and admitting to their fails and celebrating their successes. Which initially gave me the idea to write a post today, on the first day of this new year.  Here is my accountability in writing out there for the world to see, not just a note taped to my bathroom mirror, to be removed a few months down the road.

I had purchased a set of 2019 glasses to use with my students on the first day back to school and had thought how great if I could get the dogs to wear the glasses for the post photo (and I didn’t even drink last night!) Needless to say, that was a photo shoot that didn’t happen. Plan B…There was Wilbur just sitting there, a willing crazy eyewear model and upon reflection a much better representation of me.

Why? So glad you asked. If your familiar with the character Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, then you know he is loyal, optimistic about the goodness of people (and spiders) and the world in general. I like to think those traits are part of my make-up. Call me crazy, but I think 2019 will be a great year, the world will become a better place, People will be kinder and more compassionate towards others and we will rise above the ignorance and fear that dominated many of our national conversations in 2018.

While I can’t control the actions and words of others, I can choose mine. I can let, peace, compassion, and love begin with me, from what I say to what I do, not just in the big moments, but in the mundane everyday moments.

So my resolution for 2019 is to measure my words and actions against this ideal. That’s my commitment to making the world the better place I envision it to be and I invite you to join me.

Now for the more mundane (yet equally important to me) goals. I’m recording them here as a way to make me accountable.

  1. Exercise daily: 5 days at the gym, walking the dogs daily, yoga 2-3 days a week (Note this isn’t about weight loss, although that should be a nice side effect. I’m focusing on my strength, balance, and flexibility so I can make it to my goal age of 108 standing straight and moving around on my own power). You could say I share some physical characteristics with Wilbur as well, rather rounded and soft.
  2. Save a full month’s salary in the emergency fund (I know it should be more, but I’m trying to be realistic here, knowing there may be an appliance or two that will need replacing this year.)
  3. I will finish and get out into the world my fourth book.

If 2018 was any indication, I’ll be back to this moment at the beginning of 2020 in what will seem like a mere blink of the eye. So come on 2019, there is no time to waste, I’m off to the gym!


Baring The Halls & Organizing Angels



One page of Angels

The time between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Company has departed and I finally feel settled into winter break. It is a time to reflect back on the year about to pass and forward into the year that is to be. I feel compelled to pack away the holiday glitz and restore order to drawers, closets, and cabinets.

It is a shock to the system when the layers of Christmas decorations have been repacked and stored. The mantle, tablescapes, and the house, in general, seems bare. Not that this is a negative. On the contrary, I find it fitting as we approach a new year. It is a new beginning and should be faced clean and stripped of the past, at least as stripped back as can be. Not all baggage should be left behind, some is essential for moving forward, but I try to be selective and reflective and a bared house fits the task at hand.

The other aspect of a bared house, just a simple white bowl of pine cones on the dining table, is that it reflects the season of winter, we can no longer deny is upon us. Like the bare branches of the trees, it is sculptural and architectural. Beautiful in its own right until the adornments of spring arrive.

The other part of this week between the end and the beginning compels me to do is organize all the things I have put awry through daily living.  The cabinet in the bathroom has been crying out for it for months and now I have the time to do it. This year I also decided to organize and catalog my Metropolitan Museum of Art Angel ornament collection. Mama started me on it in 2002 and I have gotten a new one every year with the exception of 2011. Each year I have carefully packed each angel back in its original pouch and box.

In recent years I have resorted to using a magnifying glass to figure out the year on the back of each ornament, driving myself crazy. So, this year I did that, but took a picture and labeled each picture with the year, then created a document with thumbnail pictures with the year, printed and cut and then taped the picture for each angel on the inside cover of each box. Now in 2018, I will not need the magnifying glass and I will only have to photograph and catalog one angel.

A little over the top for most, I’m sure, but my heart smiles knowing how well organized the angels are for now and the future. If only the bathroom cabinet and the cooking utensil drawer could be so permanently coraled.

So baring the halls and organizing everything from angels to zesters is my way of preparing for saying goodbye to this year and greeting the new. I have already decided, no matter what goes on in the world at large, here at home 2018 is going to be a great year.

Happy New Year my friends!


In The Final Quarter



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!


The Power of a Deep Clean


Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 4.10.31 PM

A screen shot of a Facebook Post I wrote this week

Overall, our brush with Hurricane Irma was way more than expected here in the lowcountry, but thankfully my personal property was unscathed apart from a fence board dislodged and some minor branch damage.

In the days prior I had taken care to drag in all the plants, patio furniture, grill and the decorative items from the front and back of the house into the garage. So the day after the storm seemed the perfect time to drag out the power washer and clean the house, driveway, and patio while they were in a bare state.

For me, there are some chores I find exceptionally satisfying to complete. Primarily because the effort is immediately apparent and the results last for more than a day or two. Lawn mowing and power washing are two such chores. So I happily spend a few hours getting wet and dirty as my house and pavements were stripped of their layers of grime, pollen and green growth that clings to the surfaces hidden much of the day in the shadows.

I watched as the spray removed the layers to reveal surfaces renewed back to their original states and of course the writer in me thought about how this was a metaphor for renewal in our lives.

Renewal is a theme that has run through my thoughts on a regular basis. I love that we can choose to renew our lives by taking stock, re-evaluating and then making changes, big or small. Over time we gather our own grime; fears, drudgery, unhappiness, dissatisfaction etc. But we can choose to wash it away in a sense.

We can change careers, leave toxic relationships, relocate, renew commitments, make deeper connections with the people who matter in our lives, seek out education or guidance. We have the power to power wash our lives and I strongly believe we should do this on a regular basis.

We may accumulate jetsam and flotsam as we move through life, but we don’t have to carry it with us. When I spend too many days feeling like I’m chasing the wind and putting out fire after fire, I know it’s time to take stock and get myself back on track. I find that when I take the time to clean up my life the clarity of where I’m going next brings a peace and purpose

So I highly recommend power washing your life, no hose required.


The Cheering Season



Death Valley, Clemson South Carolina

It is football season once again and here in the south we are giddy with the return of tailgating and team pride. In this season of political discord and worldwide woes, the balm of team colors and bragging rights after the weekend games is a welcome distraction. Across our nation, we are enjoying the game from pee-wee to professional. Personally enjoy college ball the best and also rooting for the local high school team, the Wando Warriors.

In the south loyalty to team ranks with religion and family. Woe to the bride who does not consult the game schedule when selecting the date for her wedding. If your team plays on a Thursday  night, bleary eyes are expected and forgiven at work on Friday. The beginning of the season is  a fresh start, full of hope and dreams of  a conference or  national championship or a least a bowl game.

We elevate tailgating to fine entertaining. We decorate our cars, we post team flags from our porches and we wear our team colors every jeans-Friday and game day. We the fans are all in, no matter who our team is. Why do we seem to go overboard for a game?

The truth is, it is more than a game. It is part of the tradition and the flow of the seasons. It is a celebration of the fact life ticks on and we are here to continue to enjoy it. It means we enjoy the camaraderie of fellow fans as well as friendly rivalry with our loved ones who insist on  being fans of one of those other teams. Football season is social and  if you are lucky enough to cheer for the team that has Dabo Sweeny as the head coach, it is filled with words to live by.

Currently, I find the state of the world leaves me  disheartened and in great need of a distraction that is healthy and hopeful. Thank goodness it is time to focus on first downs and scoreboards. In this cheering season, I will wear the orange and the purple. I will also absorb the hope and energy each game will bring. Happy Fall Y’all!


Southern Girl Rule #64: A little paint will make a big difference.



My Clemson inspired laundry closet

Thumb through any southern magazine and you will find we take pride in our homes and gardens. We treasure our family heirlooms and our flea market finds. Our homes reflect ourselves and offer us a haven to escape the stresses of the modern world (That seems to be so important these days).

For a southern woman, her house is never done. There is always a project to work on. A room to redecorate or a piece of furniture to refurbish. I keep a running list of the house projects I want to take on and I enjoy the process of planning each one.Some are small and can be accomplished in a weekend, others are pricey, so they are on the long term list and others I can complete in phases. Whenever I feel overwhelmed in other areas of my life I find that by accomplishing something on my list restores my inner harmony.

Last winter I took on changing my front door color and I still smile when I see it. Like most people, my laundry room, really an over-sized closet is nothing to get excited about. It is located off the kitchen in the small hallway leading out to the garage. It was builder’s white with the typical wire shelf. Every time I did laundry or got down something for entertaining, I would lament its utilitarian state.

I have dreamed of a Pinterest-worthy space with custom shelves and a counter top over the washer and dryer. I would jazz up the light fixture and add some artwork. As you can imagine that put this project in the phase by phase plan.

As this school year got underway and I felt overwhelmed by the unfortunate decisions the district I work for has made leaving myself and colleagues feeling undervalued, I pulled out the list. I needed a project to restore my balance. I needed to be inexpensive and fast, I had little in my pocket and only a weekend before I was back in full swing with students (Let me say here, those students are why I will continue to teach for at least a few more years, simply said, I love them). Not much is cheaper than a can of paint and the space is small enough I could start and finish in one day. So laundry closet re-do phase one it was.

I love how color can evoke emotions and affect moods. I wanted the color I chose to bring cheerfulness to the weekly task of laundry. Being that the space is hidden away behind folding doors, I knew I could take a color risk. Orange became the color of choice. It is warm and sunny and it doesn’t hurt that it reminds me of the Clemson tigers. From the moment I brushed the first of it on, I knew I had made the right decision.

So the satisfaction of completing a project restored my sense of harmony, at least for a few days. Living with the color brings me joy every time I open those doors. So a little paint can make a big difference, maybe I’ll paint the garage or pantry next. I definitely am looking forward to phase two of the laundry closet; shelves and counter. I will be ready for some more self-restoration by Christmas break.




If you detected a theme connecting last week’s post with this one, you would be correct. I hit the proverbial wall this past weekend. It happens every August and I have learned after twenty-four years, the only remedy is to unplug.

Not only did I ban computers and tablets. I even neglected my phone. I did venture to the grocery store, but no farther and the only fellow living creatures I spoke two were my always supportive golden retrievers. I did indulge in some Netflix binge watching, but I also spent time getting my house back in order. I believe there is an old adage about  clean space, uncluttered mind.

I am not a “neat freak” or a minimalist. When I am particularly busy, my dining room table becomes buried in the debris of a week of dropped items to be dealt with later. My desk at school? It is only neat on the first day of school and the last. Every day in between it’s a battle to keep it semi-organized. I am proud to say that 99.9% of the time I know where everything is.

One of the most satisfying  tasks  I accomplished during my self-imposed time-out weekend might seem trivial, but it had the biggest impact on rejuvenating my mind and spirit. I tackled the cooking utensil drawer in my kitchen. I took everything out, cleaned the drawer and the organizers then reorganized all the tools. Now the spatulas are in their own space and so are the measuring spoons. Even the mushroom brush and ginger grater are neatly laid in a new home. Order brought to the chaos of several years of tossing items  back in the drawer.

Chaos brought to order by just a little effort and attention. So I am going to try to make it my goal to spend at least two evenings a week and maybe most of a day on the weekend to unplug not just from technology, but from the real world. I will try to rest but also to take on something  to return to order. Hopefully, that will help me stay more balanced between teacher, writer, and daily life.

Wishing you a day or two to unplug so when you power-up you can be at optimal performance.

Remember To Rest



A Sunset over the Stono River

Mid-August for a teacher is much like the last few weeks of tax season for an accountant. I’m back to rising well before  the sun. I arrive at school at six a.m. and lucky to get out of there before four with a bag of work. After a quick dinner, I do another three or four hours of school work before I crawl into bed. Housework? I am ignoring the deplorable condition my house is slipping into. Writing career? On a few weeks hold. Although I have not missed a blog post yet. I have also taken care of some of the business side of things. But no time for creating. This too shall pass. I will have assessed my students’ starting points and planned accordingly. I will have fabulous parent volunteers to help with things like copies and folders. The school workload will lighten.

In the interim, I find myself so exhausted and I have to remind myself to rest. In the immortal words of someone, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I don’t have to have it all figured out in the first few days, that is a pressure that is self-inflicted. A tired teacher is not much use to anyone.

Our world spins sensibly giving us a natural day and night. In our modern world of light available twenty-four-seven and instant connections via the internet and continuous news cycle, we tend to ignore the natural rhythm of work and rest. Just look at the rise of sleep disorders. We are only human, we must rest.

So this weekend I’m breaking myself of my August habit and I’m not going to do any school work. I’m going to get this house back together and get reacquainted with my fictional friends and yes I’m going to sleep in. Will I be less of a teacher? Most likely not. I probably will be better because I will be refreshed.

Moving forward, I vow to make this year the most balanced yet. I can be a fabulous teacher, an engaging writer, grow my writing career, spend time with family and friends, keep a clean house etc. as long as I remember to rest.

So this is a short blog compared to my average. You’ll have to excuse me, I need to go and rest.


Camp Anyone?


Me at age 9 heading off to Girl Scout Camp

Once every summer I get a little nostalgic for my summer camp days. Who doesn’t love a week or two away filled with swimming and other activities? Then I remember the dark, the lack of air conditioning and the mosquitoes. I had, and still have bad reactions to mosquito bites. Calamine and a drug called attarax were my weapons. Unfortunately the medicine made me very drowsy, so after taking it the next twelve hours tended to be lived in a fog. I loved the s’mores but as a picky eater, I wasn’t too wild about the food offered in general. At least there was cereal, a food I wasn’t allowed to have at home.

So why would I be nostalgic for a place I spent foggy, itchy, and hungry?  It isn’t so much the place as the feeling of camp I would love to experience again. So how to recapture the feeling?  I have come up with some ideas on how to improve summer camp so not only will it be appealing to the adult me, I might be able to return from it well rested, fed and bite free.

First, the location would be on the edge of a beach, but the cabins would be air-conditioned with attractive indoor plumbing and electricity. A closet and an antique pine chest to actually unpack your clothes would be a must. The cabin would be furnished with quaint wrought iron beds with thick mattresses, real sheets and quilts. There would be comfy chairs for curling up with a good book placed in front of a stone fireplace.

The activities would still include swimming and boating, but lets add in massages and other spa treatments. Yoga might be nice. Instead of arts and crafts, we could have landscape or still life painting and smocking or some kind of needlework.

A menu would be offered for meals prepared by a chef. Dinner would include a wine list. Of course there would still be s’mores around the fire with sing-alongs, but it would be set up within a bug-free perimeter.

Are you with me yet? I do think my childhood (rough to me) camping experiences were vital to my development and I don’t think I would really want to change them to my adult version. After all children need to have such experiences to make connections to nature and learn to appreciate all they have back in their climate controlled  homes with their parents. However as an adult I feel I get plenty of time with nature as I care for the yard and garden. I certainly appreciate the fact I have creature comforts that a good part of the world’s population does not. Camp for grown-up girls has a completely different purpose. It would be about rest, renewal and rejuvenation.

It just might be time to go dig out that water proof duffel bag . . .