The Power of Home

WP_20180705_001I have arrived home after a week away and despite my fatigue of fighting my way down Interstate 95, just sitting in my humble abode renews my spirit. There is truth to the word’s of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

I’m not so much of a homebody that I can’t appreciate travel, in fact, I think travel is essential for life-long learning and inspiration. As an army brat, I have even lived in many different places. I could extoll all the life lessons I have learned by exploring places near and far but on the drive home from our Nation’s capital  I reflected on what travel can teach us about the place we call home.

I’m sure there are folks who venture to a new place and learn that they are better suited in that environment than the place they call home. I find the opposite. I enjoy some of the things a bustling metropolitan area has to offer for a short time and while in the thirty-three years I have lived in the South Carolina our area has grown to the point many of us lament it, larger cities make me realize we’re not as big as we think, we just have fewer roads.

As I stood on a crowded metro train hurtling underground to a National’s baseball game, I appreciated the lush plantings and water views from our roads and bridges, even if their stop and go during peak hours.

I enjoyed the towering trees and the rolling hills in my parent’s Virginia neighborhood, but my heart leaped with joy when I first espied the marsh and the Wando River on my return.

I have a ritual I do on every trip I make up the highway. When I reach the South Carolina border and cross over into North Carolina, I tap my roof and place a hand over my heart, bringing my guardian angel on board and on the return trip, I place my hand on my heart, kiss my fingers to say thank you and tap my roof to give my guardian angel a break, now that I’m returned to home soil.  I started doing this sometime in the early 90’s and I fill with joy each time I cross that line into the Palmetto State.

I live where I belong in the world and while I enjoy going away now and again on each return my soul rejoices. Travels to other places have broadened my view of the world and made me more tolerant of those who are different. I have soaked in history and culture on foreign soil. I have enjoyed time and connections with family and friends in their hometowns.

Still, the biggest life lesson that travel has taught me is that the South Carolina Lowcountry is where my heart and soul belongs.

Seersucker Weather

 

WP_20180620_001

My favorite Summer dress, and yes, that is a monogram.

The mercury was set to climb in the high ninety’s today with a heat index from 105-110. The news anchors kept repeating the need to stay in or take many breaks, drink lots of water and of course wear light and loose clothing.

Not that I needed an excuse to wear my seersucker dress, but it is the lightest weight fabric in my wardrobe. I totally get why many a southern professional man wears a seersucker suit like a uniform from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Seersucker is quintessentially southern and having spent many decades of summers in lowcountry heat, I see it was born out of practicality as much as dapper fashion.  I was curious about the history of this fabric and did a little research.

Here are some interesting facts I found:

  • the little puckers in the fabric are what makes this fabric cooling. The puckers keep the fabric away from the skin which helps with heat dissipation and air circulation.
  • It was used in India by the British Colonists to keep cool and in the Victorian era for wear and also for mattresses and pillow covers in hot places including the American South.
  • In 1909 a New Orleans tailor was the first to fashion men’s suits out of seersucker.

 

I may need to expand the seersucker in my wardrobe, I can stay as cool as a cucumber while looking iconically stylish. Or at least feel a few degrees cooler while  I sparkle with perspiration and hide out in the air conditioning. The heat has been a great motivator for me to work on the last few chapters of my current book project and I am now confident it will be complete before the end of July.

So stay cool my friends and if you must venture out, wear your seersucker!

A Southern Essential

 

WP_20180512_001

My temporary source of cooling

Isn’t it funny how we take everyday things for granted? Like when your car is in the shop and all of a sudden you feel trapped in the place you are. Of course, my HVAC waited until we had ninety-degree heat to resign from service.

I realize this is a first-world problem, however, that does not make me any cooler to think there are people all over the world who live all their hot days without air conditioning. I am grateful that the humidity level is still at bearable levels. If this was August, the dogs and I would be checking into a hotel.

The bad news is that the tech looked at it today, yes, Saturday, after-hours service call rates, and said it couldn’t be dealt with this weekend. The good news is by next weekend, I hope, I will have a brand-new and more efficient unit to keep us in the cool air this southern girl is accustomed to and might I add, a woman my age needs to maintain her sanity.

There are times I wax nostalgic for the past, the manners, the simpler life etc. But when it comes to medicine and the modern conveniences I am wholeheartedly a denizen of these modern times. I fully-understand why Scarlett and the girls lounged around in their underclothes and why those who could, fled Charleston in the summer months for cooler climes.

Yes, I do believe here in the south, the air conditioning is essential to a happy and healthy life. Not just for the cooling, but to avoid opening windows to the clouds of pollen that float around like swarms of no-see-ums.

So for now, all fans on deck, no cooking just eating cold dishes and considering cold showers.   I also vow I’ll be more thankful for all the things in my life that make me comfortable.

 

 

 

Lowcountry Zen

 

WP_20180215_004

Over the marsh and the Wando River.

I have the enviable task of helping my parent’s in their house hunt and I went with their realtor to view a few properties this week, and even though this particular house was not the right fit the view was definitely something I would love to come home to.

Last year and this year so far seem so chaotic and fast on every level. I have said before the turmoil in the world and our nation have left me feeling anxious and a news-cycle for just a day or two seems like it surely covered at least a weeks worth of events. Even daily life between my teaching life, my writing life, my home life and social life are overwhelming me and I don’t feel I have a firm grasp or that I’m caught up in any area.

When I see a view like the one above it automatically catches my breath, slows my heart rate and commands me to pause, slow down and regroup.  Makes me wonder is it too late for me to move back in with my parents? A view like this is what they will end up with and I plan on spending a lot of time with their view. . .  I mean them.

I don’t think you need a water view to achieve the zen, a walk in a park, a garden, the beach or even a mountain can get us away from twenty-four-hour connectedness and screens. We have to disconnect to reconnect and refresh.

If you come home to a view each day, I imagine it’s a little easier to practice that on a daily basis. The rest of us might need to take a short drive to a beach or a park or take a stroll each day around our back gardens, assuming part of your stress is not the various yardwork chores you’re behind on.

I think I am beginning to understand the appeal of meditation, although I’m lousy at sitting still and clearing my mind sitting in a room. Give me a Lowcountry view like above and my soul makes it easy to sit still and meditate on the spectacular views all around in this magical place I get to call home.

I know we are over half way through February, but I think I can add one more thing to my New Year’s goal list: Stop each day, find a place in nature to disconnect and reach a few moments of zen.

 

 

The Doorway to Spring

 

WP_20180203_001

My thrifty and crafty new entry

 

The groundhog saw his shadow, but I don’t think the Kiawah Island alligator Charles Ray did. Apparently, he has been predicting local spring since 1932. I just learned this little fact on the local news. How did I not know this colorful bit of local lore? Here in the South Carolina Lowcountry, I am certainly hopeful for early spring, after all, some of my daffodils are on the verge of unfurling their sunshine blooms.

Winter is not my favorite season, although I try to appreciate the gifts it gives just like every other season. As soon as Christmas is over I begin to dream of warmer days, more hours of daylight and mother nature putting on her fashion show.

Recently I fell in love with a wreath in a catalog with beautiful greenery and yellow silk tulips, it was selling for $139 and I almost gave into the temptation. In the end, I couldn’t justify the splurge when I had some rotting fence boards to replace and other needs to be tended to.

This morning I looked at my beautiful blue door and the now fading Christmas wreath that was still in place. To clarify, my holiday wreath was adorned with seashells and a cream ribbon so it didn’t scream Christmas, but the live greenery was beginning to brown. It was time for it to come down.

Still craving a cheerful yellow wreath to grace the door, I ventured to the craft store and $18 later I returned with a grapevine wreath and several stems of yellow flowers with greenery and a spool of roping.

It is not as large and lush as the wreath from the catalog and I could not find yellow tulips like the catalog wreath, but I found decent looking and feeling blooms that created the effect I was hoping to. So it is an inspired creation, a low-budget version of a high-budget item. Plus, I enjoyed a small project to exercise my creativity in a form other than words.

Now my door makes me smile again and I hope it says to the world, “Welcome Spring!” Even if real Spring is still a few weeks away I’m pretty sure here in South Carolina we will have it before our friends to the North. Hang in there Northern friends and family, the snowdrops and crocuses will be there before you know it!

A Southern Winter Wonderland

 

WP_20180103_037

Magnolia in the backyard showered by snow

January 3rd brought magic to the South. It began as a freezing rain and icicles formed on branches and patio furniture, then big fluffy flakes floated and blew down not just a dusting but slightly over five inches and our world became white and sparkly. My joy in this event took me by surprise, I don’t care for weather below the 50’s in the winter and long for the warm 80’s and 90’s of summer as a rule. But the collective wonder of it all on the local news and social media swept me up in the excitement.

The local channels covered it like a hurricane with constant on-air coverage, and the businesses and roads shut down. Children and adults alike rushed to don winter garb, some make-shift as we don’t generally have such items beyond a coat in our wardrobe. I myself wore my rain boots. The dogs bounced around like puppies regardless of age and so did the humans.

Neighbors emerged to take pictures and marvel. This is about a once a decade or more event. We greeted it with glee, it meant snow days from school and work. Unlike the northern tier of our country, we can celebrate snow like children because it is so rare. I freely admit that if I had to deal with it every season on a regular basis it would make me grumble and complain, but once in a decade I can truly savor and enjoy.  I have been here for 31 years and have only experienced snow like this twice before, with a few minor dustings not even lasting a day a few times as well. Also, three ice storms that closed thing down, each winter scenario averaging once a decade for my Lowcountry life,  making each one a marvel and a magical experience, secure in the knowledge it won’t last. We will be back in flip flops in just a few days.

 

I’m not especially superstitious but I can’t help but feel this is a good omen for 2018. I felt that way about the beginning of the school year coinciding with the total solar eclipse. A rare event can’t help but seem magical and mysterious. It fills you with joy and hope and wanting to soak it in for all the good luck it might have to offer.

The snow is still solidly here and will not melt much today. I’m going to venture out to shovel the driveway to hopefully prevent the re-freeze sheet of ice and I just might have to make a snow angel for nostalgia’s sake. I have my wooden flexible flyer with metal runners in my garage (It hangs on the wall as decor), if we only had a hill nearby I would take it for a spin.

In a few days time, this will melt away and we will enjoy being outside sans jackets again. But today I’m going to play in this winter wonderland and soak in the magic of the moment.

Mixing up the Merry and Bright

 

WP_20171225_001

The batter bowl my class gave me for Christmas this year.

December is definitely the baking season. I know a few folks who bake year round, but once the mercury rises, I avoid oven use if possible, which means the oven is off most of the year with the exception of entertaining.

Not so during the holidays. I bake for gifts, I bake for the cookie exchange, I oven roast main dishes, I bake homemade rolls or biscuits, this morning I whipped up a batch of blueberry muffins for the tree-picking.

Yes, it is Christmas morning and I am blogging. Our Christmas morning doesn’t include children, so it is peaceful enough with some Harry Connick Jr. Christmas music in the background to get my weekly blog post written.  Daddy is up but quietly drinking his coffee, the matriarch is in bed, keeping the lady at court hours.

So muffins mixed and in the oven and inspired by my new batter bowl, which incidentally, I will use year round despite the holiday message, I sat down to wish y’all a Merry Christmas or if you celebrate something else or don’t care to celebrate any holidays some peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women, children and all creatures big and small).

Baking does that to me, it fills me with goodwill. Sharing baked goods is an expression of love in my opinion. It is the season of magic and wonder and what could be more magical than mixing separate ingredients in a bowl and creating something wonderful and better than the sum of its parts.

Maybe this year I will just crank up the AC and bake up some merry and bright every month. The matriarch, otherwise known as Mama or Nonnie Malia and sometimes as CM has stirred and the timer is about to go off on the oven. Time to empty the stockings and pick the tree.  Merry Christmas Y’all! May your day be filled with joy, peace and some baked love from a family member’s oven.

 

 

An Endless Love Affair

 

WP_20171124_002

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.

Attending to the Signs

 

WP_20171029_002

Sycamore leaf in my front yard

I’m not sure when it happened but fall has definitely arrived here in the lowcountry. I had been searching for signs in the world around me and in the long-range forecasts by the local weatherman. But then October got fully underway and I got distracted.

It happens to me several times a year and I suspect it is the same with others whose primary careers are in education. August, October, and May are the busiest months and I get lost in the vortex of school. October might surprise some, but remember it is the first report card and hence parent conferences for each student. This year it seems to arrive too soon, I suppose due to the eclipse and the hurricane disturbing our normal school year patterns.

When the calendar turns to autumn and parts of the country are already revelling in cooler temperatures and changing leaves, here in the lowcountry we are still sweltering in the heat and high humidity. Yet we press on with fall activities such as football games and pumpkin patches.

October flirts with fall. A few cooler or at least lower humidity days, followed by a resurgence of heat mark most of the month. The air-conditioning hums along, it is still needed most afternoons and we all try to resist turning on the heat for those few cooler mornings. I personally make a rule no heat on until November, so I have gotten dressed at lightning speed a few mornings. I may give in a day or so early this year. It has been in the seventies, but today is in the sixties with a low in the morning threatening the upper thirties. No worries the heat will be on for only a night or two before we return to a few eighty degree days.

I have been so wrapped up with report cards, conferences and trying to be not all work by participating in the busy fall social season, I tuned out for the last week or so and this morning I was taken by surprise by the marsh grasses waving golden heavily amongst the green. The beauty of the waving grass with the water in the background took my breath away.  Leaves along the road are tinged with brown and yellow and my Sycamore in the front has begun dropping its leaves. The breeze is blowing cool, a front is moving through and taking the warm air with it, albeit temporarily. I am giddy with anticipation for crisp air.

When I noticed today that the hints of fall from a few weeks ago had turned into the signs of the season I lamented the fact I had not been paying attention to the moment of transition. I had missed it because I was too wrapped up in other things. I finished the last of my conferences this week and I did manage to participate in two social events, book club and a faculty night at an art place, however, by Friday I was so exhausted I came home and crashed. It wasn’t until Saturday morning I realized I missed a friend’s annual Halloween party. I have enjoyed that party many times and I am sad I missed this year, especially since some in attendance I don’t get to see that often.

The message I think I received from the party miss and the marsh grass change is to slow down and take the time to notice even in the midst of all the busyness. We only have so many falls to enjoy in this life, I want to soak them in. I realize I can’t shirk my responsibilities and nor do I wish to, but I also know things aren’t in balance when I get so exhausted I don’t remember an annual party. I hope you realize it’s not the party but the people that I regret missing.

So today I’m going to seek out some leaves to crunch under my feet and breathe in the fresh air.  I will renew my intention to pay attention to the world around me and appreciate each day for the many gifts it gives.

 

Southern Girl Rule #63: An Iron is Essential.

 

WP_20171014_002

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!