The magic and mystery of the world silently sleeping under a blanket of fluffy, white, freshly fallen snow never gets old through the eyes of wonder.
Welcome to Charleston, Winter. We are so glad you came for a visit.
The magic and mystery of the world silently sleeping under a blanket of fluffy, white, freshly fallen snow never gets old through the eyes of wonder.
Welcome to Charleston, Winter. We are so glad you came for a visit.
I resolve to love more and to give more. I resolve to be more gracious at receiving. I resolve to be more aware and mindful each day – to move more and eat healthier. I will work harder at being my best self.
But I also resolve to stop judging myself and others and to know - without a doubt - we are all generally doing the best we can with what we know. I resolve to stop holding myself to ridiculous standards that don't mean anything to me and to set my own goals that will set me up for successes.
I resolve to remember that just because today is a day on the calendar, that it doesn't mean anything. There are 365 days this year - each one a chance at redemption, love and becoming who I am supposed to be. So if I lapse or falter or trip, I am here, to pick me right back up and set me back on my path... venturing towards my best self.
Back to me.
Letting go of a sunset is a little like saying goodbye to something you love. It's bittersweet - painful and a little beautiful all at the same time.
But while each sunset can feel like a goodbye, each sunrise can be a fresh start...a hello all over again. It's a reminder that the circle continues, and life just continues to renew itself over and over again. Each day brings something a little new, a little different and something to look forward to all over again.
The faith comes in the letting go...in the sunset. And the affirmation comes with each new day.
I had a shitty "spring break."
Let me explain...
Like many of you, I have a school-aged son that was on spring break last week. We don't have a lot of spare cash these days, so a trip was not happening. Instead, I thought of the bright idea of camping for a few days in the mountains (something I have actually only done once in my life...smart thinking.). We set our plans and started the wheels of our camping trip in motion.
Of course, life being what it is, the universe had some other plans for me. Or maybe I wasn't fully committed in the first place. But my plans changed course somewhere the week before. Some great, unexpected work came up. My teenager had some specific ideas about his social plans. And then I slipped into saying yes to far too many things I didn't want to do. So our camping trip got cancelled, I worked a lot, and then became an unpaid Uber driver for my son in my spare time.
As the week progressed, I started to get increasingly more frustrated. I was mad at life...mad at myself. I felt trapped and owned by some imaginary rules I had set up for a life that I was supposed to live. And it only got worse as I scrolled through social media to see friends enjoying Caribbean vacations, European adventures, and good old US road trips. What's worse was that I knew in the truest part of myself that I was the one responsible for the way this week was panning out.
When I started to reconcile what was happening and got real with myself, I realized a few things.
1. I was in desperate need of a break. I work weekends a lot. And when the typical work week rolls around, I am usually still working. While I do set my own schedule and have lots of freedom to make appointments and go grocery shopping at odd times, I tend to still feel like I need to be getting work done during the Monday-Friday, 9-5 hours as well. To top it off, I was going on weeks of constant work without a break. I needed a change.
2. I was telling myself a story that wasn't real. Not everyone I knew was on a spring break vacation. In fact, I knew more people that had to work than those that did not. Spring break trips are a luxury, not a right. And I needed to hip check myself on that.
3. I was feeling sorry for myself. And that wasn't allowing me to live on a higher "vibe" - if you will. I was sulking and wallowing in self pity instead of changing my reality. Once you change that, everything changes. Literally...everything.
4. I wasn't seeing the amazing opportunity around me. I live in a place with abundant beauty. I am 15 minutes from the beach on a good day (5 minutes from one of the most gorgeous parks in the world). I have gift certificates to 5 local restaurants. I have a sister with a pool in her very own backyard. Enough said.
5. I wasn't saying "NO" enough. Not to my son. Not to his dad. Not to friends or neighbors. I was doing things I didn't want to be doing. I was creating my own misery and my own sense of disappointment.
Once I started seeing all these things, I began changing my story. I planned an Easter Brunch to see family I hadn't seen in months. I went to the beach. I watched the sunset. I played with the dogs. I went for a walk with a friend and talked about some amazing topics like meditation, family, and life changes that we are both on the precipice of making. Once I took the wheel back, I lived in the presence of joy and gratitude instead of wallowing around in my own self pity.
The best part of this shift is that it only takes a moment to change your mindset. For me, it finally happened when I got real with myself and realized I wasn't listening to my inner voice saying - SAY NO...YOU NEED A BREAK! I was trying to please too many people - clients, family, friends, neighbors. I wasn't voicing what I wanted to do. But once I finally followed through for myself (albeit with begrudging sighs and protesting from my teenager), everything shifted. In that simple moment of saying "This is what I want," I stopped being a victim of my circumstances and started taking care of myself. I started enjoying where I was in the moment.
Sometimes saying what you want isn't about being selfish or narcissistic...it's just about taking care of yourself. Simple, kind gestures that say "Hey wait...I'm important too!" Make yourself answer the call to do more for you. You know when the teeter totter of balance of your life looks like a chunky kid from gym class is sitting on one end with sandwich and a Snickers bar laughing at you for being trapped way up there. Take control back. He's not in charge.
Just get some balance.
Cultivating a crop takes patience. It takes time and repetition. It takes weeding, observing, watering, and watching. And sometimes it doesn't go as your careful plan. Pests get in. Frosts hit. Rain washes away your hard work. It's a precarious game making you anticipate Mother Nature's next move.
This can be said for a lot of things, too. Raising children, starting a new job, or even creating something new... like art. It's a balance of patience and grit, of testing and trials. You await for the outside influences to come and hope that you have some semblance of a plan when it all hits.
But after the battles and the hardships, you are left with new soil and a fresh, new place for seeds take root. New growth come. And the crops that were taken out during the heavy rains, pest invasion and frigid temperatures have made way for fertile ground to sprout new ideas.
And along the way, you realize that ultimately it is all a test to cultivate a crop of faith in yourself to handle it all.
These lovely Camellia's are happily blooming all around my yard right now, simply oblivious to the fact that it's the dead of winter in most areas. These plants enjoy coming to life in the cooler months and showing the world their magnificent colors and textures. They use the warmer months to go dormant, saving their energies for now when they really need it. It seems counter intuitive to what we understand plants to be, but this is how they are most comfortable. And we nurture them where they are planted and how they best thrive.
Wouldn't it be great if we gave our fellow humans that functioned like this a little more understanding? Wouldn't it be great if we just accepted that some of don't learn the same way the rest do and flourish under different circumstance? Wouldn't it be awesome if we accepted people as they are and understood that that mostly, everyone is doing the best they can?
If it weren't for the camellias blooming now, the landscape would be bleak with dormant trees and brown turf everywhere. But these happily blooming plants are there adding color to our lives when we least expect it.
Wouldn't it be great if we could see this same lesson in our partner, neighbor, or child? How can you accept their blooms where they have left them for you to see and not just where you expect them to be?
There have always been so many lessons tucked in between the branches of this season of light and love. So much gets magnified during the holidays. The best and worst comes out in all of us - showing us exactly who we are and precisely what we need to spend more time learning.
This year, I had many lessons shown to me. Some more clearly than others. I begged the universe to take it easy on me, but to no avail, it decided this was precisely the time I needed to hear the messages it was sending me...apparently, when you are vulnerable, tired and spent is when the universe teaches us it's strongest and most important things.
This year, I am tucking these messages away. Just like an advent calendar for my every day. Lessons I learned of letting go, receiving, gratitude and humility. Lessons of giving, forgiveness and love. Lessons of faith and trust.
Lessons, tied up with ribbons and bows and wrapped up better than any gift any lovely soul could ever give me.
You have to do the work...
Work the land. Plant the seeds. Till the soil. Weed. Water. Mulch. And watch with patience as things develop.
The good stuff takes time and love and reckoning with things you might not be prepared for. But the rewards are great.
Take your time. Do the work. Trust the outcome.
Saying farewell to summer these last few days has been bittersweet. I am always surprised at how fast it goes by. It somehow feels like trying to hold water with an open hand....something stays. But most of it slips away before we even knew it was there to begin with.
Until we meet again next year, Summer. I'll be waiting for you.
I am in a summer daze. A hazy, lazy summer daze. I can't shake it off. And I really don't want to. I want these lingering days to last forever. Beach picnics at sunset and surfing into the dark hours of the day. I want to stay inside these in between days of spring and summer where the sun is shining and the breeze is cool and all I do is buck the Rules of Life.
It's here I want to lay my head and rest a while. I want to float around and get comfortably lazy with our schedules and Lists of Things To Do. I want to smile into the setting sun and thank her for yet another glorious day of life and give gratitude for the things that make the rest of it a little more palatable.
So here I will stay for a while with arms outstretched into the blue skies, laughing into the ocean winds again. Here is where I will be until the Summer turns her prickly heat on me once again.
A reminder to breathe - slowly and completely.
Accept what is. Believe in what will become.
And know that you are always right where you are meant to be.
Summer is here. Just like that.
For us, it isn't marked on a calendar or a clock. It isn't measured by the moon or the sun or the tilt of the earth. It arrives the day we drop our schedules and routines for something looser and a little more free. It arrives on a Tuesday at 5:37PM, when we are tired of homework and supper routines and classes and deadlines. It happens when we throw caution to the wind and finally sigh under our breath, "Summer is here. It's finally here."
Welcome back, Summer. I can't wait to float around gently and purposeless in your wake.
LIST OF THINGS TO DO
1. SWIM. As much as you can. And stop caring what your thighs look like in a swimsuit. Nobody thinks about it nearly as much as you.
2. RIDE A BIKE. On the beach or in a park.
3. GO OUT FOR ICE CREAM. And eat it outside until it's drippy and messy on your hands.
4. EAT A HOMEGROWN TOMATO. There is nothing better.
5. STAY UP LATE. Because you can.
6. WATCH THE SUNSET BY THE WATER.
7. GO OUTSIDE. Summer doesn't happen inside.
8. GET A PRETTY PEDICURE. With a sassy new color you have never tried.
9. FARMERS MARKETS. You have to fill in the gaps of your own garden.
10. BUY FRESH FLOWERS.
11. WATCH THE SUNRISE. Also by the water if you can.
12. READ. A book. A magazine. An article. Read that one thing you have been putting off becuase life is always too busy.
13. TRAVEL. Even if it's close. Or you have to scrape all your pennies together to do it. You will make more memories on that trip than you will in a whole summer.
14. GET A FRESH HAIRCUT AND COLOR. Because it's summer!
15. WEAR A PRETTY SUNDRESS. And stop worrying about your arms/back/legs. Nobody cares about them but you.
16. PLAY A GAME. Or do a puzzle.
17. GO TO THE MOVIES. There is nothing like a freezing cold, dark movie theater on a steamy hot summer day.
18. BUY A GREAT HAT. You will look good and keep your skin safe!
19. FLIP FLOPS. EVERY DAMN DAY.
20. PLANT A GARDEN. Or a flowerpot with some herbs. You will be so happy you did.
I spent my summers slightly sunburned, running around outside in the fresh air, chasing fireflies, and picking perfectly ripened blackberries for my mom behind the watertower at the top of the mountain. We never heard the word foraging. We just did it. I lived in a neighborhood edged with forests and farms, so foraging for wild berries and wildly growing culinary treats just sort of happened.
When we moved to the south during my teen years, everything was different. We lived on a barrier island on the coast of South Carolina that looked more like a lush, tropical forest than the woodlands and farms I was used to. Everything looked exotic and exciting. And a little bit poisonous. And honestly, as a teen, I had better things to learn than what was yard berry was edible and what I should fear. So I stayed away from most things thinking I would suddenly die upon ingestion.
As the years passed, I found myself longing for those blackberry bushes I foraged in my youth. For some reason, they seemed like a treasure that nobody knew about for years but us...like our own secret garden right up the road. It was a treat saved for a few short weeks every year. And although I loved eating the plump berries right off the bush, my pudgy fingers stained purple from their juices, I was always excited to bring them home to my mom to see what magic she would make with them - cobbler, pie, preserves. It was the stuff dreams were made of.
Somehow this unfamiliar territory made foraged foods seem harder to come by in South Carolina. But as I learned more about the culinary south, I realized there was a whole slew of foods at my disposal right here in my own backyard. I moved into my current house about 11 years ago. On that day, I noticed a bush dripping with what looked like tiny apricots against a backdrop of fuchsia azalea blooms . Golden yellow in color, I had seen these bushes around the south for years. Little did I know I had a loquat tree right in my own back yard. The very start to my own little backyard farm.
This year is my first year harvesting these babies. They are tart and juicy and have a great texture - sort of peachy. So we will be experimenting with drinks, preserves, foods and maybe even a desert or 2 over the next few weeks before our quickly ripening bush goes to the hungry wildlife of the neighborhood.
I can hardly wait to see what goodness comes out of it all!
"Country roads, take me home to the place I belong..."
Every once in a while, I grab a camera and set out for a spot I have never seen before. It seems to get harder and harder, but I keep finding hidden (to me) treasures wherever the roads lead me. Exploring has become sort of a personal project in my life as well as in my work. I seek to find things I haven't seen before. Even if they are familiar to the rest world, it's still all new to me. ANd isn't that the point of discovering and learning new things?
Somehow stumbling on a country road along these explorations makes me feel like I have found the ultimate treasure. That dirt road and the light streaming through the dripping Spanish moss tells me I have found what I was seeking all along. These country roads bring me where I always wanted to be in my heart.
They bring me home.
We live a humble Christmas here. There aren't many of us and I would much rather have a trip or an experience than a gift any day. Don't get me wrong....there are plenty of material gifts given to my son and other friends and family. But Christmas morning isn't the over-the-top extravaganza I grew up with.
This year, I struggled a bit with the expectations of the holiday. I wondered if it was enough. I worried about the gifts I gave - were they nice enough? Would they be liked? Would everyone be satisfied with their bounty? After setting everything out under the tree in the wee hours of the morning, I looked at the scarcity of boxes and thought about other homes overflowing with everything they could ever need and want...and then some. I took a photo of the sweet silence you experience after it's all done - tree gently lit, presents thoughtfully placed, stillness all around. Like many of my friends, I posted the photo to my personal Facebook account wishing everyone joy and peace and love. The first comment that came was about the amount of gifts (or lack thereof). Meant to be more of a wish for them rather than an insult to me (they have 3 kids, I have one), it was still extraordinarily humbling.
Immediately, I went into a tailspin of inadequacy and panic. Putting the brakes on that mental conversation was difficult, but somehow I managed to stop myself. My son had everything on his list. Every item had been purchased by me. Every. Single. Thing. Not to mention his 24 day advent calendar - filled with little treasures and special Christmas activities for us to do together. Feeding the Birds on the Winter Solstice. Going to the county park to look at the Christmas lights. Baking cookies. Eating breakfast for dinner. Game night. Favorite movie night. Donating to those in need. I had made our Christmas as special as I could while honoring the season.
Honoring the season isn't really that hard if you think about it. This is the season of love. The season of giving - not of gifts, but of ourselves. It's the season of extraordinary faith - where we love whole-heartedly those things we can't see and believe in things we can only hope for in our hearts. It's the season of time well spent and moments of caring. It has nothing to do with the boxes, bows or bags. This is a hard lesson to remember in our hyper-materialistic, I-want-it-now culture. And it's even harder to learn when your holiday was paved with those material rewards. What I really wanted growing up was to bake cookies with my mom - not get scolded for eating them before Christmas morning. All I ever really wanted was to go sledding and decorate our gorgeous home and look at all the magical Christmas lights around the town we grew up in.... and yet, at the same time, I wanted the stuff. So I recognize the precarious balance of Christmas with a child.
This balance - this internal struggle - will always be there for me. Always. It's a balance between giving and receiving. A balance between gracious and humble. A balance between love and faith. There are so many lessons in this magical season - whether you celebrate it or not. Mostly to me, it's a great time to pause and remember the magic of what it means to give all of yourself to something through nothing but faith, hope and love.
Whatever you parts of the season you leaned into, I hope you celebrated big, enjoyed a feast, and found some light and love this holiday. Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays.
This is the season of gratitude. It's a celebration of all the things we have in our lives to be grateful for - big and small, bad and good, easy and difficult.
As much as I try to show and celebrate thankfulness and gratitude every day, I count Thanksgiving week as the reset on this essential part of living a whole and fulfilling life. It's a good time to sit back and reflect on all the things that have happened, regardless of their nature - both bad and good, happy and sad. It's like an emotional hip-check on thankfulness and a gentle reminder that things we have to be grateful for come in all different shapes and sizes.
This sweet pause this week is something I don't take for granted as we swiftly slide into the season of abundance and love. I think Thanksgiving fits nicely with the the coming Holidays, becoming a reminder to not give without love or receive without gratitude.
So today I give thanks, for all the things in my life - the lessons, the life and the love. I am thankful for family and friends, the work I get to do, and the life I get to live. It's all part of what makes me who I am and all part of what has put me on the path to what I want to do with this one sweet life.
And to all of you who support, love and motivate me in all parts of my life...Thank you. I am forever grateful.
Looking forward to drying out after these past few days. My yard is still under water and doesn't look great, but we are much better off than most folks in this city and state. My heart aches for those in Columbia. There is some serious flooding there. People are in real crisis all over the state.
This storm has reminded me of the fragile balance of life. We are at the mercy of so many things that even in the most solid circumstances, life as we know it could be ripped from our reality to something much worse.
I was lucky this time. Really lucky. And that's not something I take for granted. But at the same time, I am certain that things could change drastically for me somewhere else at any given moment. War. Financial ruin. Death. Natural Disaster. These are all things that can change the course of our lives in an instant. And no amount of planning, money or control can stop it.
So today, I move forward humbly with grace, gratitude and hope for some sunnier days ahead. For all of us.
There are things I know for certain.
One of the things I know is that change will come, regardless of whether I want it to or not. And no matter how predictable that change, it still can catch me a little off guard. I know the seasons change, but when that happens is never determined perfectly on a calendar or clock. I know, too, that the tides will come and go, but the size of those tides is sometimes a little unpredictable and leaves behind flood waters so deep, I am not quite sure how to navigate them.
I find the best way to get through change - whether wanted or not - is be fluid. Change always seems to happen on its own terms. When I am anticipating it and wishing for it, it takes it's time getting to me. And when I begrudge it, it seems to happen more swiftly than I would have hoped for, ignorant to my pleas of mercy.
I find that the more I fight change, the less energy I have for the important things - like puzzles and beach walks and sunset chats. So now when change comes my way, I just try take a deep breath and close my eyes and remember - This, too, shall pass.
I have been here before...standing in these flood waters. So now, when the change comes again, I will be more prepared to breathe into those heavy currents.
It's funny to me how social media has changed our perspectives on reality. And I fall for it every time... "Why does their life look so amazing?" "Why am I not doing that?" "I need to step up my photography/life game." "They are SO lucky." Thoughts of an inadequate life rush into my head. Doubt begins to trump confidence and I stand on shaky ground.
Ironically, when I look back through my own Facebook photos and Instagram feed, I look like one of those people I seem to be wishing my life emulated. How can this be? What am I missing that I feel like my life doesn't look like this?
I think perhaps the reality of Life happens in between these delicious moments and take over the share of our brain. Laundry, grocery lists, and errands become front and center rather than these sweet spaces in between the shadows.
I know most of my life tends to look like a vacation according to Facebook. My Instagram account looks like a dream. And my Steller account make me appear to be the globe trotter I wish to become one day. But the reality is, that's only part of my reality. It just happens to be the parts I want to remember. I don't want my life to be a story of laundry and errands. I would much rather remember the lingering moments of joy that connect the rest.