Gardenias and My Dad

12814310_10153259647097000_7132381373956898829_nI’m on the cusp of finally wrapping up a story of four little women and their life with the U.S. Navy…. through the eyes of their step-dad. Ironically, I used the gardenia bush that was not fictional, one I grew up with in my childhood and eventually into adulthood.

Even writing the scene of the totem gardenia bush in our backyard, I teared up and tried to suppress the lump in my throat. My writing coach, Shari Stauch, encouraged me to use it to layer each character’s life lesson. So, I did.

Being the fan of symbolism, serendipity or totems… pick your verbage… I decided to Google the gardenia. My step-father purchased a home in my senior year of high school. His green thumb was a gift to our back yard. He turned it into a Utopia for not only Mother Nature but the neighbors. We reaped from his vegetable garden to his infamous banana plants. Many birds bathed in the mists of his irrigation systems. But, among these endeavors— his wisdom to bring a scraggly gardenia bush to a thriving fragrant Spring gift paralleled with his presence in our lives.

He married my mom with four daughters in tow. He saw promise in each of us. He cultivated and groomed the soil of our souls. Looking back, I see the pruning and fertilization of a parent who led all of us into our futures. Resolve, resilience, and resourcefulness were active words. We always celebrated the fragrance of Daddy’s gardenia bush for decades. Now, I look back this New Year’s Day and realize that it was serendipitous… God’s nudge…. that we were blessed to have the wisdom of our step-father’s ability to cultivate the gardens in his life.

I pray we can all find the small messages in our life lessons that say…. stop and smell the gardenias.

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Runnymede – … a night of Funny-mede

fireflies-and-rubies The Middleton High School Class of 1976 cried for a ’40th reunion…’ in January, 2016. Not much time due to Charleston, SC becoming the hot event destination with brides flocking in their bridal gowns like our local egrets. But, as the heirs of the Reunion Committees resigned, we went into War Room mode, rolled up our sleeves, pulled out my weary duct taped folder of years of searching for classmates and met to discuss logistics at Bobby Bernstein’s office.

Strategically, Bobby strolled to the kitchen fridge and brought a cold bottle of Chardonnay and one glass. He sat it in front of me at the head of the table and gave me a healthy pour. What came next befuddled me as we had to choose the date to back into for location, catering, rentals and of course, hunting classmates. We knew it would be sometime near hurricane season. A non-negotiable for a Charleston Fall event.  Continue reading

Looking For Lydia? Where Did I Come From?

lydiaI took Dean Robertson’s book on my recent dive vacation. I’ll admit it cut into my focus to add to my own writing project, but the questions she posed haunted me for several days…

The women in her book had several common bonds: aging, a Bible study and shared residence at the Lydia Roper Home. As Dean led them through a study of women in the Bible, the complexity of how “life showed up” shone through the pages of the Bible and Ms. Robertson’s book, Looking for Lydia, Looking for God. Continue reading

Lights, Cameras, Corset

Only a few more days before Palmetto Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Troupe performs in the North Charleston Performing Arts Festival. Some of the women have marinated and subsequently created dances beginning after the 2015 show. We spend hours on the internet Hoop, Kelly and Suhaila 012researching costumes and YouTubes. After my son moved out, I converted his bedroom into a small dance room. My husband thinks nothing of several parked cars and entering the house hearing jingling and exotic music. My dog, Chaz, was eager to greet dancers and hang out until he got underfoot. My cat, Hollywood, loves to get under skirts or plop into the center of the room expecting everyone to dance around him. Continue reading

Wind of Change – Staying True to You

I’ve started my parenting tale with two US Navy fathers raising four girls… just like a modern tale of Little Women. Although, Louisa May Alcott’s father was kept away because of Civil war injury, my tale is more complex.

Products of the mixed signals between Russia and America who economically survived the Great Wars, Korean and Cold Wars…. we dependents were at the mercy of little disclosure or access to our fathers’ duty stations. They defended treaties with allies and defended the right to use international waters without acts of violence. They were crowded on ships that shared and operated as one under pressure. Obedience to an oath to serve country… or among those who wanted to get out of subscription.

Little did I know how intricate this simple fact was for not only my parents… but those who blazed the trail behind them. Life’s one constant was change, some closer to global evidence of genocides, religious division and political agendas than we’d know as small children.

I was never raised to think color, race, or creed. I lived through and embraced the desegregation during my childhood in the South. I didn’t know how to make sense of assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther or Robert Kennedy. I lived between the fantasy of Disney and ignorance of political corruption. I was not aware of the egotistical agenda of the Berlin Wall. Vietnam was just a place my fathers went to work.

My innocence was cocooned by parents who were far from perfect. They just kept the lines of the messiness of adult life issues from us. Playing Cowboys and Indians in the woods was not offensive. As I used a stethoscope or pretended to give prescriptions to my siblings, no one worried I was headed to substance abuse. Being on the losing team at recess did not crush my self esteem. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. Pen pals used stationery and postal stamps. I waited and learned patience because there was no instant gratification.

I don’t think there is anything surrounding my five decades of life that is new to mankind. But, I still want to follow in my fathers’ footsteps. Never think the smallest kindness is futile. I don’t want to be discouraged by the magnitude of the descent of a country’s moral compass. I will not be afraid to face mindful weigh ins or challenging offensive lines. I aspire to respect someone’s opinion, hopefully being reciprocated the right to mine.

Change was more subtle during my lifetime. I guess I heard my dad’s Wind of Change subliminally and dreamed away. Looking back, I realize the enormous gift of these great adults. Do we leave that ability to dare to dream?

I can’t. I want to look behind and see my footprint carrying on the torch of hope given to me by a great legacy of ancestors.

Peace Out, Chaz

Chaz sleeping-editI owned the most gentle and eager to please mutt, Chaz. Back story: I am not a dog person—I’m a cat girl! Chaz migrated from my ex-husband’s home to my home sometime early 2000s. Eventually, my son graduated high school and Chaz remained in our home. My husband did the walking, feeding, playing and even showers with him once a week. I did potty duty during the day but it was on a leash and only as long as it took to get the deed done. Continue reading

I Love Time Travel with a Tin Can Sailor

imagesAs an avid reader since my tiny hands could carry a book, the adventures created by authors such as Eleanor Cameron kept me turning pages and living in alternate realities. Building rocket ships in hidden caves off the beach, taking on the challenge of Gandolff and Frodo or just wanting to find and perfect The Secret Garden…

Now, as an aspiring storyteller, I look back in my mind and realize I’m constantly in a Time Machine… my life line. The memories have been created through the journey of being a Hall girl, finding stories in the souls of those that crossed paths, either through the pages of books or my family’s journeys.

Working on my second novel, I have had the privilege of riding in a Time Machine as I meet and listen to the tales of Tin Can Sailors. This is the happy result of researching for a new book based on fathers serving in the US Navy. This weekend was a particularly special one for me. I spent the weekend with a shipmate and his wife who served with my late step-father in the Vietnam War, aboard the USS L. F Mason. Continue reading

What are you peddling?

For the past few weeks, there seems to be an employment surge on the corners of major intersections in my city. By no means do I think it is a new concept. But, this group seems to be as organized as the CEO of a van of kids dropped off to canvas neighborhoods selling magazine subscriptions. I don’t see any signs of homeless veterans, but mostly young adults drinking Dunkin’ Doughnuts coffee and changing shifts with another peer sitting under an overpass.food sign

I guess my beef is that I see “Now Hiring” signs in business windows up and down my suburb’s highways. I was not a privileged young adult that was able to go to college. However, the work ethic that my parents raised me with failed to allow myself to indulge in the idea that I would ever get rich quick. I worked fast food, the Piggly Wiggly deli and eventually into law offices to earn the title of Legal Assistant for a prominent attorney.

Yes, I worked for food. I improved my living conditions at a tortoise pace. Nothing happened overnight or was served from a silver spoon. My children didn’t have every gimmick or name brand fashion.

I can’t imagine that choosing to hold a sign at the side of a highway pays more than minimum wage at a department store or restaurant. I am not judging their choice to participate in a group peddling scam, but I guess it plucks a sour note. As the younger son in the Bible’s Prodical Son story, I tend to resent being the dutiful worker bee. The one that sends a check to the government and doesn’t sit and wait for one. As hard as it is to stop from rolling down my window and share the fruits of my labor, I feel I am enabling slothful mentality. As my friend, Jacqueline Gum, says…. Where’s the Justice? HARD-WORK

Facing fears? What’s a little spilt milk…

“The fear of change can keep you from walking into some of the greatest things life offers. Don’t be afraid to let go of things and people that aren’t making you a better person. Life is too short!” ― Buky Ojelabi

The above quote is a beautiful capsule of encouragement to embrace personal growth. But for anyone who has made it part of their lifestyle, the ability to see what to let go of is a complicated job.

When I decided to write Ameera Unveiled, I knew it would revolve around my protagonist facing her fear. A fear that eventually revealed underlying prongs of insecurities… prickly fears we universally experience… school-milk

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Christmas Traditions

Big Ass Santa GlassWe are in the last ten days of Christmas countdown. I see blogs, Facebook posts and other personalized media expressions of Christmas traditions. But to be politically correct (which I resent having to qualify such a simple term), it is understood that it reaches across the lines of many faiths and traditions. I look back into my own Christmas experiences and recall things that saturated my five decades of Christmas. One of my new adult favorites? Taking my Big Ass Santa wine glass off the top shelf!

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