A Jewel In a City of Treasures

 

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A view of Randolph Hall under the Oaks by the Cistern

Almost thirty-one years ago my parents dropped me off to begin my college adventure on this beautiful and historic campus. The College of Charleston just received the distinction of the prettiest college campus, but the truth is the grounds and buildings have been picturesque for decades.

It was the seductive beauty of brick pathways, gaslight lamps, long reaching oaks with swaying Spanish moss and a collection of flowering and evergreen specimens that was too intoxicating for me to resist. I felt instantly as if I knew it, somehow it was a place I could call home.

The College campus feels more like a park in the heart of the city. I can’t even imagine the hours the horticultural team logs to keep it shining in all seasons. There are many places to stop and sit and soak in the scenery. The ironwork gates around the campus are works of art and the stately Randolph Hall reminds the visitor that the College history is woven into the history of the city and this nation.

More important than all this visual beauty is the beautiful soul this institution has. As a student, I felt connected to my fellow students, professors, and even the administration. Thirty years ago, the College was about half the population it is today, but I hope the current students feel they are part of a family like I did. Some of my best friends have come from those years.

I love learning and the College was the ideal environment to soak it in. With only one exception in my four-year degree and then a year and a half spent getting my masters, my professors were passionate about their subjects and really cared about my success in learning the material.

So yes the College of Charleston is easily the prettiest college campus but what makes it truly beautiful is the people and the commitment to education that focuses in on the value of learning and produces graduates that have the critical thinking skills to be successful in whatever field they choose.

 

Introducing The Soul Believes It

 

The Soul Knows It Cover for Bookmark

Chris Berge of Berge Designs does it again! The cover art for book three captures the soul of this book.

Book Three now has a cover and once again I’m in awe of my cover designer Chris Berge. In The Soul Believes It, Lizzie discovers a letter and a family secret, that challenge her beliefs about family and where she comes from. This cover captures the essence of that.

The lowcountry is blessed to have live oaks, dripping with silvery, lacy Spanish moss. When I think soul, this tree comes to mind. If you are ever in the area, a visit to the Angel Oak tree on John’s Island (On the way to Kiawah and Seabrook), will prove it.

These trees are the east coast’s version of the Redwood forest out west. Live oaks are iconic on the campus of my alma mater, College of Charleston. Last year when one fell, alumni along with Charleston residents grieved. I was thrilled to read that much of the wood was salvaged so it could be transformed into items for sale. The proceeds going to the college’s scholarship fund. I have to think Shel Silverstein would appreciate this giving tree.

These trees bear witness here in the lowcountry. They give us shade against the brutal summer sun. The sight of the moss fluttering in the sea breeze, whispers, “You are home.” They’re solid, long-lived. They will be here long after we are gone.

Just like these poetic trees, our souls bear witness to our lives and stand solid if we only anchor ourselves to them in times of turmoil. Our souls can be shattered to their core and our beliefs can be challenged and possibly changed, but at the core, our souls are the essence of who we are and that gives us what we need to believe.

I hope you will enjou reading the third installment in the lowcountry home series. The book will be out in June. For now, let the cover intrigue you and inspire you to do some soul searching of your own.

 

 

Southern Girl Rule #2: Ladies have lovely lips.

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My growing collection of Lipsense products

Rule two has two parts. part one, what goes on your lips and part two, what crosses your lips.

Part one I’ll admit has always been a hard one for me, that is until my co-worker Amber introduced to me to a lip product I can’t destroy in minutes. I had a love-hate relationship with lipstick. I loved the colors and how polished wearing lipstick made me feel, but I hated how it ended up on my teeth, my glass etc. and was basically off my lips within twenty minutes of me applying it.

This lip product stays put all day and never leaves marks on anything, so I can kiss and not tell. I have become a major fan. Southern women know it’s important to leave the house put together even for a short run to the market. Lipstick can give the illusion of put together without having to do up your whole face. So part one of rule two I can follow with fidelity.

While lipstick is fun and girly it is not the important part of rule two. My friend Rachael who taught kindergarten and now pre-school has a saying that I have adopted and use with my students on a regular basis. “If it isn’t lovely, it doesn’t leave your lips.”

If only the world, particularly the political world would follow this simple rule, perhaps respect would grow and things might actually get accomplished. I am not advocating for women to be meek and un-opinionated, rather that we speak our thoughts with kindness and respect.

The most beautiful lips in the world will become the ugliest, if the words that cross them are cruel. With careful thought we can express strongly opinions, disagreements etc. in a way that doesn’t disparage the person we are conversing with. Empathy and compassion should be the screen through which our words are filtered.

So put on that Goddess, or Aussie Rose with a layer of Bombshell and gloss, just make sure your words are just as lovely.

Cultural Lessons

 

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Photo my friend Sally sent me from a shop in Hilton Head, SC

I enjoy aspects of many cultures around the world. Some of that comes from growing up in a nomadic military family and some from being an avid reader of novels set all over the world. Both inspired me to be open to visiting those places and adopting from those cultures customs I could enjoy in my own life.

When my friend Sally sent me this picture from a shop in nearby Hilton Head, South Carolina, it made me smile. I have a slight addiction to bags anyway (a tale for another time), but the message spoke to my soul. I might add the line, Live American, I absolutely love our country. I also think living American means appreciating the best the world has to offer and melding that into our own culture, we have been doing that for well over two-hundred years. I personally think that is what makes America a vibrant nation.

I might also change a few of the lines, I might Speak Kindness, Eat Italian, Love French and Read British, but one thing I would not change is, Smile Southern. Kindness and hospitality are still a hallmark of southern living. We need to be vigilant to keep that so and I dare say we should work hard to export it to the rest of the country and the world. My inner flower child thinks that what the world needs more than anything these days is love, kindness, empathy and yes lots of smiles.

Here in the south, we have our own way of dressing, cooking, decorating, gardening and storytelling. This lifestyle needs to be celebrated and preserved with care. I get alarmed when yet another charming local business in downtown Charleston is replaced by another national chain business you can find in any city around the country. I’m not opposed to those businesses, but I think they need to be off in a mall somewhere, not on a historic street. I had the same reaction when in London and Paris and saw shops like The GAP on prominent city streets, I wanted uniquely French and uniquely British.

Along that same vein, I think if you want to move here and live here, y’all are welcome as long as you respect and adopt our ways. We don’t cut people off in traffic or exhibit impatience when we need to wait in line. Above all use words of kindness, slow down and take time for conversation and above all smile and return smiles offered.

A smile is a simple thing that doesn’t cost a thing, yet it reaps goodwill and respect. It opens doors and lifts spirits. No matter where you’re from or what language you speak, adopt the practice of a Southern smile and I promise good things will follow.

 

 

Southern Girl Rule # 7: Hair Appointments are Sacred

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I have the crud, you know that sinus yuck that turns infectious and takes down your ears and lungs by the time you give in and see the doctor. I’ve only had a few doses of the antibiotic and I have barely passed for a living at work the past two days. Yet I was determined to make my hair appointment.

To be clear I am not contagious, otherwise, my doc would not have allowed me to go to work and I wouldn’t take germs to the salon. I laid on the sofa for awhile between work and the appointment to gather my strength and for a brief moment, I did second guess my decision not to, “gasp” risk re-scheduling. I always schedule my next appointment before I leave, crazy would be the word for the girl who takes her chances for a last minute opening.

Once there I knew I had made the right call. First off can I say that my stylist, Mallory is magical with hair? She has mad skills. She is enjoyable to visit with and always makes me feel good. She can’t cure the crud, but she can make me feel beautiful while I suffer through it.

No matter if the weight of the world is on your shoulders or if you are under the weather, the salon is the place where you step in, in pieces and you step out renewed and put back together, at least for the moment. When I step out, I feel the swing of my hair and it adds pep to my step. I can almost imagine I am in one of those shampoo commercials, you know where the world stops to stare at the girl’s beautiful hair.

When I watch shows like Downton Abbey, I totally get why the ladies don’t do their own hair. No matter how you try, you can never do your own hair like someone else can. My favorite scenes from Steel Magnolias are the ones that take place in the beauty shop. It is a place a girl can be a girl. I wonder if men feel the same way about the barber shop?

 

 

 

An Accidental Dealer

 

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Bet you couldn’t eat just one!

For a number of years now I have gifted my friends, neighbors, and co-workers with these divine cheddar-pecan-cranberry cookies for the Christmas season.  It is a Southern Living  recipe that has become part of my repertoire and even if I wanted to make something different, I would fear the repercussions.

It starts after thanksgiving with comments like, “You are going to make those cheddar things this year.” Then when I present them, faces light up and grown-ups squeal in delight. The reactions make me feel a bit like a dealer, I know my recipients are hooked.

It is a magical combination of cheddar, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, butter, flour, salt and cayenne pepper, but I think the secret ingredient is love. I know I get as much pleasure baking them to give, as the folks who love eating them.

The baking and giving of these cookies has become a tradition, like many Southern Living recipes I make for various occasions throughout the year. I love how cozy the house is, all decorated for Christmas, while I bake. I love the aroma of the toasted pecans that lingers for several days. I don’t think it would feel like the holidays without preparing this recipe.

So I can reassure all those who have become addicted to my cookies, I will gladly be your dealer for years to come.