The Cheering Season

 

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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!

 

Revelations From A Grocery Run

 

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My Hurricane Hermine Supplies

There are a lot of anecdotal stories of how in moments of crisis the true character of a person is revealed. I suspect we could learn a lot about our fellow man by peering into grocery carts with an impending  storm in the forecast.

In the south, that tends to be for storms that are tropical in nature. I imagine for my northern friends its snow and ice. I actually went to the grocery store two days before, but I realized I had forgotten a few things I really wanted.

I suppose I could have made do with what I already had, but there is something irrational that takes over when there’s a storm coming that might leave you isolated for a few days. For reasons I can’t explain, popcorn was the top of that list for me. I suppose I imagine I will be curling up with a nice hot bowl of popcorn and watch a movie while the storm rages outside. Nice thought, if we keep electricity.

I should have realized the irrational need of my fellow man to raid the grocery store before a big event would be at a fevered pitch when I actually had to wait for a parking spot. Or, perhaps when I got one of only three carts left in the cart rack. The checkout lines were ridiculous as I began running the gauntlet of chaotic carts and overtired children I mentally prepared for a long wait to get out with my purchases. Fortunately, the situation was much better by the time I took my place in line.

I chuckled to myself as I observed multiple shoppers with carts with mostly beer and wine. The toilet paper aisle was almost wiped out. I had bought my water two days before, but I could imagine that was pretty decimated as well. Some carts were so stuffed with frozen foods I wondered if they understood the concept of storm prep. Veterans know, you don’t spend on perishables, you might lose them if power is lost.

For the most part, people were polite and calm. For some, this is their first experience with a hurricane and while it might cause some damage, for those of us who lived through storms like Hurricane Hugo, we are more annoyed at the disruption to our routines than nervous about the storm. As I’m writing this I am realizing I still need to secure the patio furniture and the plant pots….ugh…and here I was, all ready to just snuggle down. Maybe when I finish, I’ll pop some corn.

Wishing all in the path of the storm, safety and a good supply of whatever it is that will get you through it.

 

Beauty In The Everyday

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Monogrammed Handkerchief

Our modern world is filled with fast and disposable conveniences. From tissues, paper towels, and even one use dental floss picks.  While on the go or dealing with children these disposable items definitely have their value, yet I sometimes think the utilitarian qualities of these conveniences has taken some of the beauty of the everyday.

Take for example the lovely linen handkerchief I have shared here with its monogram and delicate design. Almost too pretty to consider using, right? Well, it may not be what I would want to soil while fighting a cold, but I would definitely use it for other everyday tasks and then launder it like a pro. It may seem like a simple thing, but by choosing to use this hanky I am saving the lives of trees. I’m also soothed by it’s beauty. This was not made by a machine, but by the loving hands of a family member. Pulling this out of my handbag reminds me of that connection. It brings a smile to my face. I can say with certainty that a paper towel or tissue has never done that.

I have long made a habit of packing a cloth napkin and real silverware in my lunch box each day. Yes, that is a sustainable, good for the world practice and I am glad of that, but that was not my motivation to begin that practice. I do it to add a bit of home and care into my workday. I enjoy the patterns and colors on the cloth napkins and I find they remind me to savor my lunch and pause in my day to appreciate the moment. the extra items in the laundry are a small price to pay.

If you have beautiful things, things that speak to you and have the power to brighten your day, I say use them. Not just for special occasions, but for the daily occasion of living. Adding beauty into the everyday takes very little effort with the big payoff of refreshing your soul as you move through our fast paced, high tech and disposable world.

I would like to think here in the South we are a bit better at practicing this, but even here modern life takes its toll. If we are mindful and take care to use beautiful items in our everyday we can insulate ourselves from the effects.

I dare you to serve Tuesday night dinner on the good china or treat yourself to a pleasing insulated mug to pour your work coffee into and ditch the throwaway cups. Be mindful of the beauty in everyday life.

Captivated by a Cover

unnamedMy heart skipped a beat when I saw the final design.  I have to say I was giddy with delight at the surreal experience of seeing my debut novel’s cover.  I was blessed to work with a fantastic local designer, Chris Berge of  Berge Designs.  He really listened to my vision and incorporated his know-how to bring us to the final product.  I hope it will inspire readers to pick it up and get to know my main character Lizzie. I know I fell in love with her story all over again when I first glimpsed the cover.

I knew the cover was one of the most important components of the book. I have only seconds to capture the attention of a browser. It was important to me that this cover reflect my other main character in this novel, the beautiful and magical South Carolina lowcountry, the place I call home.  I have been in love with this place since I arrived as a teenager. Yes, even in these pollen hazy days, It literally has been snowing pollen so thick, you see footprints on the sidewalk. I wanted this cover to pay homage to the lowcountry water, marsh and sky and that is what inspired the color palette.  This place is an elixir of healing for my Lizzie, and Chris really captured that with the lowcountry seeping through her scarf.

I know we are cautioned not to judge a book by it’s cover, but please judge away!  I am confident you will be captivated.  I have found some of my favorite authors simply because I was drawn in by their covers.  That is not to say, I have not also picked up a book on recommendation despite the cover.  But an eye catching cover is a definite hook. In my very biased opinion, I think this cover is a winner.

I can hardly believe that a little over a month from now, this book will be released as both an e-book and a print book, with an ISBN number, a bona fide novel!

I want to thank y’all for following me on this journey and encouraging me every step of the way.  I can’t wait to share the story of Lizzie with you.

 

Day 3: 3 Quote Challenge:Love the South

For day 3 I searched out quotes related to my love of the region I live in. This place is so often the muse for my writing, this is a way I can honor her back.

  1. “The South is more than a region- It’s a state of mind, and Southerners seem forever returning there.” -The Book of Southern Wisdom
  2. “I’m going back to Charleston, where there is still a little grace and civility left on the world.” -Rhett Butler (Margaret Mitchell) Gone With the Wind
  3. “That sinuous southern life, that oblique and slow and complicated old beauty, that warm thick air and blood warm sea, that place of mists and languor and fragrant richness.” – Anne Rivers Siddons, Colony

Here are three blogs to check out:

The Laquered Life: written right here in downtown Charleston

The Daily South:  I am a long subscriber to Southern Living and this is their blog extension.

For the Love of the South: lots of southern food on this one.

 

In The Lowcountry The Oyster Is Your World

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shucking oysters

I could give you an in depth history lesson of how the oyster is an integral part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  This lesson would begin with the native American tribes and their shell rings, move on to tabby construction in colonial times, then lime kilns in the brick building industry.  I could tell you how in 1657 a Spanish explorer documented how the Edisto Indians roasted oysters. I could tell you it’s good to eat oysters in any month with an “r” in it. But what I want to tell you is if you have an opportunity to go to a Lowcountry oyster roast take it.

Whether you have enjoyed fried oysters, oysters Rockefeller , or never had an oyster at all, you are in for a new experience. Eating a freshly steamed oyster is to taste the essence of the Lowcountry. Personally I think January is the best month for an oyster roast.  It is something festive after the holidays and mid-oyster season. There is usually a bonfire and a big pot of chili as well as plenty of beer.  The table, is a large board with a hole cut out in the middle resting on sawhorses.  The hole is where you push your empty shells. Locally the shells are required to be recycled.  On the table you will find saltines, cocktail sauce and hot sauce.  The host may provide a shucking knife and gloves, but I have my own. Some folks use a towel instead of gloves.

The just steamed oysters are poured out onto the table and everyone digs in.  I confess I could stand there for hours.  It is a bit like potato chips, you can’t eat just one. I like the challenge of a cluster, even getting out the tiny ones. I enjoy the small ones with a drop or two of hot sauce and the larger ones on a saltine. Watch and you will see all kinds of methods. Experiment until you find the one for you. Then stand around the table shucking and socializing with the other oyster lovers until you get your fill or your wrist get’s tired. Then indulge in some chili by the fire.

Here are a few tips I have learned over the years. It is worth it to have your own knife and gloves or towel. I have a very affordable one with a plastic handle, although like any southern girl worth her salt, I want one with my monogram on the handle. Take a Ziploc baggie to put your wet, muddy gloves and knife in. If you are anything like me, your clothes will get wet from bellying up to the table, plan to throw them in the wash as soon as you get home, you don’t want to leave it until the morning, that includes the gloves. Oysters are good to eat, not so pleasant to smell.

An oyster roast is a bright spot in the drab of winter. There are many organizations that hold them, selling tickets, most raising money for charity. However my favorite ones are held in someone’s backyard with people you know and love.  In that moment that you are savoring the salty morsel out of the rough shell, laughing and connecting with the people you hold dear, the warmth of the lowcountry flows through you leaving the chill of winter out in the cold.

Traditions and Rituals

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Christmas Card Pic for 2015

Tis the season of rituals and traditions and I confess I find a lot of comfort in this.  When there is so much strife in the world and worry in life, there is something reassuring to know the annual card photo, the decorating the baking and many of the events to attend will by and large be untainted by the world.

There are a few exceptions, we notice those missing more acutely and some events change or don’t take place.  Some folks become such slaves to tradition that they go through the motions but don’t enjoy. Instead they stress and grumble at fitting it all in.  They try to out-Pinterest the neighbor and out-bake Martha Stewart.

I like to think the missing loved ones are with us in spirit and remember past Christmases with them.  When an annual event is no longer, then there is opportunity to find or start a new event.  Tradition and ritual should be savored not dreaded.  There isn’t to my knowledge a Christmas commandment list that declares, thou shalt send cards or thou shalt make handmade wrapping paper.  So if the cards stress you out, don’t do them. If the idea of baking gives you hives, don’t turn on that oven.  Follow the traditions and rituals that make your Christmas season joyful.

I enjoy so many things in this season.  My annual photo for the card is fun to create.  My co-workers so enjoy the Southern Living cheddar, cranberry pecan shortbreads I make. They start asking for them the first week in December and when I finally deliver them the Monday of the last week of school before vacation, I enjoy the faces lighting up as I present them. One of my friends does an annual cookie party and collection for the East Cooper Community Outreach, and I enjoy taking a big box of diapers, having a nice glass of wine and visiting with friends. Another friend has a cookie swap party, our Bunco group December gathering is always extra special and then there are the parades on land and water.  However, if any of these events become burdensome or unenjoyable I will skip them. This year I skipped the parades to give some quieter moments in my calendar.

Traditions and rituals have value, only if you appreciate them and consciously participate in them. Enjoy the Christmas season, soak up the goodwill and strive to be a part of the peace on earth.

Merry Christmas y’all

A Charleston Thanksgiving

 

WP_20151126_003Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot Charleston 2015

This morning started with mild temperatures and beautiful sunshine.  The starting corrals for the annual Turkey Trot were packed with locals and out-of-towners treated to the view of the steeple from the Citadel Baptist church as it rises over the live oaks draped with Spanish moss that line the Meeting Street side of Marion Square.  That church is separated from The AME church, the site of this summer’s tragedy by a parking lot.  Some joke that Charleston has a church on every corner, and they are not far from the truth.  I think that is one of the reasons our fair city confronted hate with love and aggression from outside forces with peace.

Charleston this year has a lot to be thankful for.  We are far from perfect, we have a long way to go to fix disparities that persist in our community like the nation as a whole.  However I feel hopeful we can and will make Charleston a better place for all because we will tackle the problems with compassion.  Charleston has an attitude of gratitude. A grace that shows itself best in the worst of times, I saw this after hurricane Hugo as well as many times since. It also is what makes Charleston a loving and living community, this of course extends off the peninsula to East of the Cooper and West of the Ashley.

I am thankful for the beautiful preservation that makes downtown Charleston such a charming place to be. My gratitude runs deeper for the graceful people that make the day to day living here so pleasant. We smile and wish folks a good day or evening, we are polite and patient with inconveniences, such as traffic and lines, for the most part. The exceptions to that tend to stick out. We are quick to offer help and cheer each other on, those in our circles and those in the community at large. I think the beauty of the people of Charleston far exceeds the architecture and southern charm of magnolias and camellias. So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for living in a truly beautiful place.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Night Lights

Park and Rec Football

Park and Rec Football

Here in the South we are happily immersed in our beloved football season. College football is serious business here, Go Tigers! (Sorry to my Carolina fan friends).  Weddings and other events are scheduled around the games.  Folks fly their team’s flag from their porches and on the windows of their cars.  At school, teachers are permitted to wear their team’s colors with jeans on Friday and we have an annual Clemson v. Carolina food drive in November.  The high school football scene dominates Thursday and Friday nights, some games broadcast over local television and all covered by the local sportscasters.  The bands and cheerleaders that support these teams are equally as serious and games become a family affair, sometimes with multiple generations in attendance.  The hit show Friday Night Lights, was based on the culture of football in the South.  Where does this all start?  Under the Wednesday night lights of the local park and recreation fields.  Young eight and nine year olds, heavily padded and helmeted, with their still toothpick legs looking quite comical, take the field to be indoctrinated into the game.  They experience the thrill of a team touchdown and the agony of a loss.  They learn the value of teamwork and having good coaches to mentor them.  They learn discipline and goal setting (something I think all kids involved in sports do).  These Wednesday night games do not have the glamour of press coverage or the thrill of super exciting plays.  It is a bit of stumbling and bumbling out there akin to Larry, Curly and Moe.  There are no elaborate tailgates, although we lounge in our folding chairs with drinks in hand and snacks in our bags, plus plenty of bug spray.  The victories will not lead to a bowl invitation.  But the heart and the bravery of these young players will make you smile.  This is where it begins, the Wednesday night lights shine bright for the next generation of high school and college players.  This Wednesday night ritual that is played on fields all over the South is part of the fabric of our community. A part of the transitional season of autumn, these young players inspire us to put our hearts into our endeavors, if we work hard and have a bit of luck, we might just score a touchdown. Just another reason to love the South!

Another Reason I love the South Carolina Lowcountry

Mount Pleasant, SC Waterfront Park

Mount Pleasant, SC Waterfront Park

If it wasn’t for the clouds, we would have witnessed a glowing sunset over the water behind the trees, but being that it is late August, cloud cover was a welcome way to keep the temp down and the breeze coming off the Charleston Harbor and Cooper River was a gentle caress on a Friday night.  The screen you see was set up to play a movie, kind of like an old fashioned drive-in, but with lawn chairs and blankets instead of convertibles and hot rods.  The smell of burgers on the grill and kettle corn wafted along the breeze and children tumbled and played on the grass.  This was my first time experiencing what has become an August tradition in my community and I am so glad I finally did.  At dusk before the movie began we were treated to live music and as darkness settled in the movie finally began.  It could have been the people I was with, a good friend and my two favorite kids in the whole world, or it could have been that it was Friday night and I was ready for some fun and relaxation, either way my exhaustion from the week melted away.  Once again I was struck by how blessed I am to live in this wonderful place with so much to offer. The clouds thinned enough behind us to reveal an almost full “Super” moon and as it followed us home, I was thankful for the lovely souls and lovely places here in the South Carolina Lowcountry.