Celebrating Sandal Season

WP_20180323_002One of my Favorite read aloud characters is a kindergarten girl who sometimes wishes she has grown-up lady feet. Her parents try to convince her that little girls should be footloose and fancy-free, but she will have none of it until the uncomfortable shoes and tights she wears for her aunt’s wedding are shed under the table and the joys of loose feet are discovered.

That joy is what I feel every sandal season. I enjoy loose feet so much I’ll wear sandals on warm winter days. These first few days of spring have been more lion than lamb days, although the afternoon temperatures have reached respectably mild levels for March. I have worn sandals every day, even if I’ve had to wear a winter coat in the morning. I fully intend to wear sandals until I’m forced in October or if I’m lucky, November, to wear closed shoes on a regular basis.

Sandals make me think of sunshine, fresh breezes and days on the beach. I could happily live in a place where I could wear sandals three-hundred-sixty-five days a year. Here in coastal South Carolina, I think it comes close to at least three-hundred. I’ m just happier and more relaxed about things when my feet are free.

Thinking about sandals and the joy they bring me is a good reminder that it truly is the simple things in life that can make you feel blessed. Savor the small joys, they add to big rewards.

Footloose and fancy-free, that’s how I want to dance through my days. So feeling tired or overwhelmed by what life is throwing your way? Try freeing those tootsies and step them out into the sunshine. It just might bring a smile to your face and a lift to your soul.

Picture Perfect Panel

 

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Myself with fellow women’s fiction authors, Christine Nolfi and Pamela Poole at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina.

May 12th was the day I consider to be the first anniversary of my first book as published. May 13th, I added another first to my list in this author journey. I was part of a panel of women’s fiction panel at a wonderful bookstore, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina.

I have done book signings and book clubs, but this was the first opportunity I had to collaborate on an event with fellow authors. writing is a solitary pursuit and while I am very comfortable with that, it was refreshing to spend time with others who are traveling a similar path.

I particularly enjoyed the car ride up and back with my mentor and publisher and fellow author Christine Nolfi. Christine is well ahead of me on this path and she was kind enough to share her wealth of experience with me and encouraging words for my journey.

Every time I have done an event I realize that interacting with readers is one of my favorite things in an author’s life. I am sometimes surprised by that because before I got serious about my writing life I fantasized that I could hide out in a cabin by the sea and just send my books out into the world without me. I get a little nervous before an event but after, I am exhilarated and energized. I think I may be an extroverted introvert.

I love that all of us on the panel had a Charleston connection, two of us live here, one was born here and would love to live here again. I was also fascinated by how different each of our writing processes were. We had great questions from the host and the audience. The flow was natural and we shared laughter and a love of storytelling. Like our stories in women’s fiction, we embodied what makes the tribe of women strong. Women supporting women makes for a better journey for all.

Appropriate to ponder on this Mother’s Day. Enjoy the day y’all! Celebrate the women in your life, not just your mother. Most women, regardless of whether they have given birth nurture and uplift others, that I believe is the silent oath we take to be part of this tribe of women. I find southern women in particular, view this as a mandate and execute it with finesse, elevating it to an art.

Woman alone is strong and capable, women together are a force beyond reckoning. I love my fellow man, but I am thankful every day to be a woman.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

A Southern Shower

 

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The Front of the invitation I crafted for a friend’s shower

Some traditions are sacred to womankind and I like to think showering the bride is one of them. The bridal shower is a rite of passage. The gifts from any decade are intended to help set up a new household with style. Here in the south, that means oodles of monogrammed items from linens to glassware. The hostesses carefully select decor to integrate with the bride’s color scheme. The feminine touches of white, lace and flowers evoke membership in a truly special group, the company of women.

While we enjoy the mini-cupcakes, signature drinks, and the charming party favors, One friend made lovely jars of sugar scrub for all the guests, I think it is the continuity of the tradition that we find the most pleasing. The rhythm of life is confirmed every time we baptize a baby or hold a funeral for a loved one. Our celebrations of special occasions are milestones for the celebrant and welcome respites from the daily routine for those who are blessed to participate.

Isn’t it nice that life offers up occasions for us to pause, take stock, and count our blessings.? I found this shower to be sweet and relaxing. The aesthetic touches. from the candle in a large cream lantern on the table to the mason jars wrapped with burlap and raffia set the atmosphere. The women, most of whom have known each other for years, felt those bonds of friendship strengthened by our shared happiness for the bride. We oohed and aahed over the lovely linens, many of them monogrammed . We wrote messages of advice for the couple and made the traditional bouquet out of the ribbons off the packages. But mostly we enjoyed each other’s company.

What a gift we woman have in the company of other women, celebrating the beautiful moments in life together. What a blessing that the time-honored tradition of showering the bride is still alive and well.

 

 

Savannah, SIBA and a Southern Girl

 

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The Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association in Savannah, September 2016. Bublish featured my book and I met booksellers by offering them the Southern Living Cheddar-Pecan-Cranberry biscuits out of a sweetgrass basket. Wearing pearls  of course!

I was given a great opportunity this weekend to participate in the SIBA (Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association conference. It was set in Savannah, the sister city of Charleston, an easy two hour and fifteen-minute drive. I have been working with Bublish  as an author to learn about the industry as well as utilize their fantastic tools to build my author platform and share content across social media. Now they are also my distributor. Bublish had a table at the conference and featured multiple authors and titles. With southern booksellers the target audience, it was a natural fit for a southern women’s fiction author to introduce herself.

So I baked the cheddar-pecan-cranberry biscuits I make every year as gifts for loved ones at Christmas. It is a Southern Living recipe and much loved by anyone who has ever eaten any. I found cocktail napkins that coordinated with the colors in my book cover and I packed up my lowcountry sweetgrass basket with a monogrammed linen tea towel. I even polished a silver mint julep cup to place my cards in. I ironed my bright Escapada dress  and set it out with my monogrammed Stella and Dot necklace along with my long strand of pearls. I set the alarm and crawled into bed.

Leaving the neighborhood I felt like I was the only one up and about so early on a Saturday morning. As I made my way south of Charleston, the sky lightened to reveal a swirling misty fog. I had a momentary flight of fancy, imagining I was crossing through a magical rift between the realm of reality into the realm of a fairyland for authors.

It had been several years since I had ventured down Highway 17 south to Savannah and I had forgotten how beautiful the vistas across the ACE Basin were. Driving through Jacksonboro I was sad to see the Old Edisto Motel is still vacant and reminisced  of driving out there during Shad Roe season with my friend Robin to eat the best hush puppies I have ever had. (Seewee Restaurant in Awendaw makes hush puppies that can rival). As I arrived in Savannah, I was once again enamored of this city with its squares and tree-lined streets.  I was nervous but excited to participate in my first trade show as an author.

What a fabulous experience! The biscuits were a hit and gave me a great way to talk a bit about my character Lizzie and her fictional business, The Biscuit Box. I met booksellers from multiple states as well as folks from our own Charleston paper, The Post and Courier and a reporter from Publisher’s Weekly. I also met fellow authors and one who is also a radio host. She offered to do a radio interview with me , so that will be another first I will share with you hopefully soon!

I left with The Eyes Have It having a lot of potential new outlets to reach readers. I also was given many free books from other authors and a slew of contacts. This girl was exhausted and exhilarated. If I was going to give myself a tip, it would be to have someone go with me, mainly to drive home.

The drive home was filled with bright sunshine, electric blue skies, and puffy white clouds. The mystical, mythical world of author meeting booksellers was now part of reality. This southern girl is blessed to see her dreams coming true!

 

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

 

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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.

 

Southern Girl Rule #5: A glass of Tea and Lunch with a Friend is good for your health

WP_20160329_001I was on spring break this past week and while I can not boast to any exotic time off in the tropics, or even packing a bag to go anywhere, I did indulge in one of  my favorite activities. Lunch out with a friend is not only something I truly enjoy, I think it is essential for my mental health.

I am fascinated when I do get to go out mid-day on a weekday and see what the rest of the world is up to. As a teacher, I have spent a whirlwind twenty minutes of dining on a packed lunch in the somewhat lacking environment of a primary school cafeteria. So on a teacher workday, or vacation days, I try to be a “lady who lunches” as often as possible. Teachers often feel isolated from other adults, even with colleagues down the hall and in rooms next door. My writing life is also a bit isolating. Let’s face it, you can’t be distracted by others when you are composing dialogue or plotting out the route your characters are going to take to get to the end you have envisioned. I was an only child, so I guess I have had plenty of training on how to be alone and be happy with my own company. I want to make clear, I am very happy on my own, but as we all know that adage, “No man is an island,” I think it is healthy to emerge and socialize now and again.

I do love people, and I have rarely regretted saying yes to a social invitation. I have written before on how important cultivating friendship is. Your true friends, are your touchstones.  They give you a reality check, they cheer you on and they give you strength when your reserves get depleted.

I do enjoy lunch with a group of friends, but there is nothing quite like sitting down with one treasured friend and sipping iced tea. (I wish mine could be sweet tea, but that is a health no-no for me). I have one dear friend who is a bit older than me and has been retired from teaching for several years. We meet for lunch regularly and I always leave with a smiling soul.  I love to listen to her talk, she grew up in Cheraw, South Carolina and her accent is distinctive. I love how we can tell each other anything without judgment. I treasure that friendship and I treasure the time to lunch, al fresco on a sweet spring day.

Southern Girl Rule #9: Girls night is a cure for what ails you

WP_20160305_001I am making up rules again, but I think this is a valuable one.  Friendship with other women should be cultivated. After all, if statistics bear out, women will be our companions more than men in our golden years.  Visit any retirement community and you will see the majority of the residents are women.  Women, simply put, outlive most men.

Women also tend to be more empathetic and get our need to just talk and share our thoughts. They do not try to fix our problems, they just let us unburden our brains.  Women in general are excellent listeners.  We also are generally givers so when we unburden we understand we will in turn be empathetic to the burdens of others.

I generally like to crash on a Friday night and snuggle in with something on Netflix, but this past Friday night I was asked to join in on a girls’ night out. My first reaction was to decline, it will be Friday  . . . I will be too tired, but I had been thinking lately about the importance of friendships in my life and here was an opportunity to make them a priority. So, I went with a group of women, six to dinner, with another two joining for a movie and then minus 1 for a drink afterward. I am so glad I did! My exhaustion was replaced with refreshed energy. I enjoyed the laughter. I loved spending time with familiar friends and getting to know a few new ones. When I finally crawled into bed, well past my average Friday night time, I fell easily to sleep, not a worry or a care on my mind.

Friendships feed our souls.  The give and the take help us grow and fortify us for the uncertainties of this life. Outside of family, friendships are the first relationships we form. Too many times as adults we neglect friendships as the responsibilities of work, marriage and children demand our time.  I think it is worth the effort to maintain old friendships and cultivate new ones, for someday you will retire, your children might live several states away and twenty-four-seven with your spouse might not be the healthiest thing for that relationship.

I have found my circle of friends to be the best sounding boards, cheerleaders and encouragers. I hope I have given that back to them. I love that I have friends that are still in my life after thirty years.  I also love that there always is room for new faces in my circle.

Only a few times in the course of life so far has a friend broken the bonds of friendship and I have felt those losses much more keenly than any of the romantic heartbreaks a man has wrought  It has been well over a decade since a man has broken my heart but unfortunately a  friend has broken it much more recently. Luckily many wonderful women rallied around and I recovered quickly. What a blessing!

So I urge you to cultivate those friendships and if need be, organize the girls’ night out. We women become better women with the love and support of each other.

Mammograms and Monograms

WP_20160227_001 (2)I have to begin this post with a confession. Sometimes when I receive work emails I glance at the subject line, rather than carefully read.  In my defense when I am checking emails throughout the school day, I glance and only zone in the ones from parents looking for dismissal changes and things that might be time sensitive. The rest I save for reading after the children have left for the day or even the next morning.

Recently we had an email from the front office and I got really excited.  Mobile Monogram van taking appointments. Wow!  A monogrammer was going around to schools to help us teachers get our monogramming done.  Immediately I was thinking what I could get my J or my A or both put on. What a great business idea.  I have not met a southern girl yet who does not appreciate a pretty monogram.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit, it was not until the next day that my bubble was burst.  On close inspection the email read, mobile mammogram van . . . oh well, maybe some savvy entrepreneur will read this and mobile monogram service will pull up to the curb in the near future. In the mean time I signed up for the mammogram, grateful for the service, but I’ll admit it, a bit disappointed.

Both monograms and mammograms are womanly things and even better if they can conveniently be on location.. Your monogram is part of your style and can make everyday items a bit more special.  A mammogram can help ensure you have more time to enjoy the everyday and the special.I have known too many women who have suffered through breast cancer. Many have survived, some have not and I miss them dearly. So while myself and I suspect many others would like to focus in on the pretty things in life, we need to make sure the women in our lives are taking care of the slightly uncomfortable, awkward things, like mammograms. It can possibly save their life.

Southern Girl Rule #15: See Your Personalized Wine Glass As Half Full

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My Personalized Wine Glass

Okay, I am making up the rules again, one of these days I might need to write down the rules as I see them and make them official, but for now just go with it. Rule #15 came to me as I opened what was described to me by the giver as just a little surcie.  I beg to disagree, this was a fabulous, thoughtful gift.

I have a friend at work who is always smiling. We don’t see each other much during the day as she works as a kindergarten assistant and our paths don’t cross much, but over the years we have developed a friendship and this past year we became Facebook friends. Through those crazy quizzes, which admit it, we all secretly enjoy, We have bonded, particularly when one quiz deemed her “Cutie” and me “Princess” so we have been to each other ever since.  I have discovered her great sense of humor and her big heart. Even when life has given her things to have sour grapes about, she radiates joy and optimism.

Which brings me back to my rule #22.  Life should be viewed as half full, not empty. Celebrate all that we have and look forward to the blessings yet to come.  This certainly makes life more enjoyable.  This should be practiced with your fabulous self shining for all to see.  So I fully intend to enjoy an adult beverage in princess glass and I might even slip on one of my tiaras while I do it.  For sure, each time I use this glass I will think of the fabulous “Cutie” LaSonya who’s warm soul brings sunshine and light into my kingdom. This “Princess” is truly blessed.