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.

The Heat Is On

weather stats for July 22nd

weather stats for July 22nd

It is Late July, when sweat seems to pour out of me like water through a sieve, even standing in the shade. If you have ever been in the South during July or August you know what I mean. Even the dogs don’t want to go out for more than a few minutes, preferring instead the coolness of the wood floor under the whirring ceiling fan and HVAC vent.  It is a bit ironic that folks refer to these days as the dog days of summer.  For me late July brings a different kind of heat as well.  My summer schedule of tutoring and writing along with some fun with family and friends is fast coming to an end.  soon I will add full time teaching back into the mix.  In the teaching profession, at least for the primary grades, there is a lot of classroom preparation and the district never provides the days necessary for that prep, so most teachers are already at it.  I have moved furniture back into place, cleaned shelves, labeled folders, prepared my parent handbooks, and those are just some of the tasks I have been immersed in to be ready for meet the teacher the second week of August.  I also feel the heat of the to do list of personal things I wanted to accomplish this summer that have yet to be dealt with, time is ticking.  Yes, the heat is on and it goes way beyond the humidity and heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service.  This too shall pass.  I will transition from Summer mode to school year mode, somehow accomplishing all that needs to be done.  Sometime around October, some cool nights and pleasantly warm days will make their way to the Lowcountry. It is a funny quirk of the human spirit, in January and February we will yearn for the same heat we currently find unbearable. There is something reassuring about the cycles of the year.  It is exciting for a new school year to begin, I have felt that excitement each year since pre-school in the early 1970’s and I never tire of it.  When I retire from teaching I imagine it will be one of the things I miss.  I am still feeling out the cycle of my writing life.  I may have been a writer most of my life, but I have only sought to be a professional writer over the past year. Next month will mark the anniversary of this blog.  I have completed two novels and am working on the third.  Yet I still haven’t figured out if there are seasonal changes that coincide with the writing,the ebb and flow of a writer’s year. The heat in my writing at this point is self-inflicted, it is not a pressure but a pleasure, a need to write.  I suppose and hope that one day, the heat will come from an editor to finish something, or from a schedule filled with author type engagements.  After a few more years of committed, consistent writing, I might even identify the yearly cycle of my writing life and come to appreciate when the heat is on.

The Promise of Summer

Isle of Palms, South Carolina June 2015

Isle of Palms, South Carolina June 2015

Anyone who is a teacher or related to one knows that from mid-August to June a teacher’s time is not their own.  They can tell you precisely what they will be doing any weekday at any given time between seven and four.  Each day runs on schedule with little deviation.  Science is always during science, of course the content changes and the lessons change from year to year to accommodate the needs of the current class and to keep the content from becoming stale for the instructor. Even the time off is regimented, you know well in advance what days you will have off, so it is difficult to whisk away for a fall leaf vacation in New England or to take in Paris in the spring.  Big trips are taken in the heat of the summer.  I am sure some of you out there are thinking, you get your summers off and we don’t, but the truth of the matter is we have earned those days, they are comp time for the sixty to eighty hour weeks typically put in to the school year and if you teach young kids like me, you need time to recover or you will soon depart this very demanding but rewarding profession.  Now, school is out!  These eight weeks are scheduled only at my whim, I do work tutoring and teaching a two week summer program, that gives me free afternoons, so while some time is scheduled, the majority of these eight weeks are blessedly my own. My routine in the summer always includes a weekly visit to the beach with a picnic lunch and a good book.  I savor my time on the beach, there is something soothing about the sight and sound of the waves crashing up on the shore.  the breeze counteracts the heat beating down from the sun, both of which seem to recharge my endorphins.  When I take a break from my book, I people watch, mining the scene for characters.  The beach is also a great place to think.  I reflect on the past, mull over the present and wonder about the future.  I close my eyes and ideas for my novels will flood my mind,  I have learned to take notepad and pen with me. Since as far back as I can remember the beach has been a happy place for me.  We spent hours on the beaches of Italy, Hawaii and Maine in my childhood. Living on the coast of South Carolina keeps me in my happy place most of the time, year round but especially in the summer.  Each June the promise of summer presents itself like a elaborately wrapped gift waiting to be unwrapped. It is the gift of time.  I want to read on the beach, write, organize closets, visit with family and friends, tackle a project or two. I did set up my tutoring schedule so I have several days a week free.  How fast the days and hours of summer become filled, the promise of extra time diminished.  Yet, it is still more time than the other seasons of the year.  As the years march on I have become more aware of the value of time and have even learned to be a bit selfish about how I spend it. The promise of summer is more time to do the things I absolutely love and savor them. This summer time makes me wonder what life might be like when I finally retire from teaching.  I was talking to my daddy the other day and sharing with him my working plans for the summer and adding in, I look forward to the day I can just spend my days writing.  He responded with “Well you can’t write all day every day.”  He is absolutely right.  I find several hours at a time is about what my brain and hands can take for a session, although when I am on a roll I can do longer or a second session later in the day or night.  So even if writing was the only must do on my agenda, I would still have hours to fill. I may not get to everything on my summer to do list but one thing is certain the time I spend on the beach will fulfill the promise of summer,