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Monday, July 18, 2016

Blogger Guilt?

Is Blogger guilt the same as Catholic guilt?  My post last week was a cheat.  Call it a lifeline perhaps, but the blog hop that appeared like an angel and supplied me with word-fodder when I had nothing to write, got me off the hook.  This week, though, I won’t allow myself the luxury.  It’s time to come up with a real post, even though it feels like I’m still out there treading water, at a loss for words when the lifeguards have all gone home.  So, you’re going to get what you always get with this happens, a word dump. Brain, to fingers, to post. 

As I write, we’re cruising towards our end of July heat wave, but after two visits down to South Carolina since March, I’ll tell you this.  Up here, we don’t know heat. We just don’t.  As a result, I’ve been snickering to myself at work when I hear people moaning about the humidity.  To be clear, it is not unusual around here for people not to own air conditioners, and without one when the thermometer tops ninety and the humidity soars, it really is hot.  That said, the reason so many of us don’t go to the expense, or bother of installing air conditioners is because the heat just doesn’t last.  By August, the nights will already get cooler. Add to that a sea breeze that helps to mitigate high temps, and like us, you too, might own one air-conditioning window unit that some years never makes it up from the basement.  As this moment, ours is still down there.

Ugh.  Weather?  Is this all I can come up with?  Come on fingers, you can do better than that...

Hmmm.  Ummm…

Things I am grateful for:

A visit from one of my oldest friends this weekend along with her husband.  

When I wake up to a clear sky and a weekend stretching ahead of us, well, trust me, I know how lucky we are. The ocean we love is near and we appreciate it even more when we get to share it. Fate was especially good for this visit, as we took our guests sailing and the wind blue steady and strong.  Later, we swam off the harbor sandbar, and the normally frigid water was bearable.  We ate dinner outside and the mosquitos allowed to us finish before chasing us inside—and Sunday morning, when we headed out early to drink coffee and eat bagels on the beach, the still water blended with the horizon as if an artist smudged the line with a charcoal pencil. The stone lighthouse on the horizon faded in and out amid a distant haze, while behind us, a morning beach yoga class quietly struck their poses.  Having company allows us to see our hometown through our visitors’ eyes, making it a holiday for us, too.

And last but not least, I received an email from my favorite blueberry patch this week, announcing the berries are ripe.  

That means in the next day or so, I’ll pull on socks with my sneakers and head to the farm where I’ll sling the rope tied to a plastic bucket around my neck, and pick with two hands. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this tradition for each of the seven summers I’ve been blogging.  Being out in the fields with the birds and the cicadas and the tickle of tall grass around my legs always inspires me.  Making blueberry crisp with fresh picked fruit does too.  Stay tuned.  Could be my topic for next week…

Saturday, July 9, 2016

This is Me, A-Z

I haven't done a blog hop in a while.  I had fun with this one. This hop is on until July 13.   To join in, or get to know others, click here:

This is me, from A to Z

A: Age
Really, I have to tell you?  Well, I started this blog when I was 50.  You do the math.

B: Biggest fear
Something will happen to my husband or daughter

C: Current time
10:15 am

D: Drink you last had

E: Every day starts with
“Can’t I just stay in bed a little longer?”

F: Favorite Song

Too, too many.  But here is the haunting, ethereal one I come back to whenever asked this question:

G: Ghosts, are they real?
I rather hope so.

H: Hometown
On the south shore of Massachusetts, where I've been for the last 24 years.  Before that, a town a bit west of Boston.

I: In love with
Life and my dear, dear husband.

J: Jealous of?
Hmmm.  Try not to be.  Really.

K: Killed someone?
In my second novel, I killed of the MC’s father…and cried for about an hour.  Haven’t done it since.

L: Last time you cried?
I’m pretty sure I cried watching a video someone put on FB, but since I do that regularly, I can’t remember which one.

M: Middle name?
Elizabeth, which I now use as my first name.  Believe it or not, my real first name is Mary.

N: Number of siblings?

O: One wish?
To get my act in gear, finish my current manuscript and finally publish a novel.

P: Person you last called?
My daughter

Q: Question you're always asked?
I moved to my husband's home town and he is one of eight siblings.  If it is not, "Are you related to...?"   then it's ...Which one are you married to?"

R: Reason to smile?
My husband, my daughter, my garden, when my articles are in print, when someone says something nice about my writing, better yet, when someone acknowledges me as a writer…

S: Sounds that annoy you?
We are on a jet path to the airport.  When the wind comes from the northwest, we hear every circling plane, and they fly low.

T: Time you woke up?
5:20 am.

U: Underwear color?

V: Vacation destination?
Just returned from Charleston, SC, which has been on my bucket list for years.  I haven’t replaced it yet.

W: Worst habit?
Reading when I should be doing everything else.

X: X-Rays you've had?
Besides the airport and dentist?  I have them pretty regularly to check on what (fingers crossed) remains a benign medical condition.

Y: Your favorite food?
To many to mention, but here are a few: bread pudding, corn and clam chowder, roast leg of lamb, a fresh tomato off the vine…preferable with fresh basil and mozzarella.  Shrimp or clam linguini.  Bolognese.  Roasted potatoes.  Blueberry pie.  Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate brownie, or New York Super Fudge Chunk…really.  If it’s not liver and it’s prepared well, then it’s my favorite. 

Z: Zodiac sign
Cancer.  Yep. Got a birthday coming up!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Who? Me? IWSG July

It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader, please visit his co-hosts this month: Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte, LK Hill, Rachna Chhrabia, and JA Scott.

This month we have a theme question: What is the best thing anyone has said about your writing?

I write freelance for a publishing company that produces various local lifestyle magazines.  They gave me a start about six years ago, offering me the opportunity to write about food-related subjects in free blog posts for one of their online publications.  Once I proved myself, they began giving me feature articles in their magazines, and often, my picture appears on the contributors’ page.  Honestly, people who read my blog probably know more about the articles I write than the people in my day-to- day life. I mean, if people ask, I tell them what I’ve written lately, but they don't ask much, and I don’t run around announcing every piece. It is enough for me that the editors pass my name along to each other and every couple of months or so, I receive an email asking me to write a feature story.  The topics are fun, and they pay. I get a lot of enjoyment out of the whole business.

So, last week, my husband and I stopped at the library together. While we don’t know the names of the librarians, they're familiar faces, and as I checked out my books one of the them said to me, “You're the writer, right?”

Eyes widening, I nodded.  “I am.”

She gave me a big grin.  “I carry a subscription to South Shore Living, and I always look forward to seeing your articles.” She said.  “And I read The Globe.  I saw your recent story there too!”

Walking out of the library, honestly, I giggled.  “Did you hear that?” I asked my husband.

“I did,” he said.  “Look at you. You have a fan.”

Then, this past Friday, something added to the fun.  My husband and I went out for an early supper at a modest waterfront restaurant we get to occasionally.  After we finished, I waited on the sidewalk outside while he visited the facilities.  Even though I'd just seen it, I perused the menu stapled on a glass covered bulletin board before beginning to read a wooden-framed notice beneath it.  It was a review, it started off witty, and I gathered myself ready for a fun read.  One paragraph into it, the thing started to sound...familiar?  I checked the byline and started laughing.  Five years later, I'm kind of tickled with myself.  The thing was good and yep, I wrote it.

The best thing anyone has said about my writing?  The compliment some invisible employee bestowed when he or she framed my review and placed it on a bulletin board facing a well-traveled sidewalk on a busy road.

Kind of feels like I have a little "street cred."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Simple Gifts

My husband has been offered summer Fridays at work and now gets out at noon.  I leave work at noon every Friday, but now, he joins me, a few hours later since he travels sixty miles, still early enough for the two of us to get a jump on the weekend. 
This past Friday, I had time to do a bit of writing before he arrived home, and then we packed up a bag and headed toward the twelve-foot dinghy we keep in the harbor.  Nothing miraculous, just a tour around moored boats and up what is called “the creek,” a meandering tributary feeding through the marshes leading toward the next town.  But, there’s everything to be said about how the afternoon light gained texture as the sun made it slow descent, the glint of a fishing line like a spider’s strand as a man cast from his stance on a barrier beach.  Perhaps the best part of the trip was the knowledge that for the rest of the afternoon, there was nothing that had to be done.  We settled ourselves on our moored sailboat and chatted, the simple gift of conversation reinforcing our gratitude for time.

Monday, June 20, 2016


A woman who volunteers at my work is taking a class called Your Personal Legacy, and yesterday, I asked her how it was going.  “It makes you ask yourself hard questions,” she said.  Curious, I asked her what kind.  “Well, for example, it asks you to list your favorite things to do.”

Not so hard, right? But here’s the thing.  Ten years ago, I would have had trouble with that answer, too.  I would have analyzed my responses.  I would have tried to decide what sounded better, and I would have struggled, really, to identify what made me happy.  At that point, I was slogging through full-time employment, full-time motherhood, and full-time disappointment in myself.

Notwithstanding marrying my husband and my raising our daughter, the two most important things, I hadn’t accomplished anything that mattered to me. I didn't love the job I'd been at for twenty-three years, but those golden-type handcuffs had me stuck.  When weekends arrived, I resented anyone who took hours away from my home and family.  I wasn’t writing regularly and had buried the desire to do so, so deep I didn't understand it would save me. That changed all because, alone at home, eighteen hours after a sudden layoff, I had no idea what to do, so I plopped myself in front of the computer to document my feelings. Then, with zero forethought, I cut and pasted them into a blog. The first time I pressed “publish" defined me and altered everything.

Over the seven years since, I’ve written perhaps millions of words.  The poems help with current hurts and the novels have given me confidence that I can set goals and achieve them.  But best of all, the personal essays that have appeared here have healed me and taught me about myself.   All the words that have spilled out since the morning I wrote that first post have eliminated brain clutter and helped to clarify the thoughts within.  Sometimes lately, I think I’ve done it, that I’ve cleaned out all the detritus that resides in me.  But then, a churning begins again and I end up in front of the computer, focused in a way most pure, in a zone where I am totally in tune with myself, writing, writing, writing.  I’ve poured so much out here, when someone asked me a question about myself, instead of having to sift through all the junk in my proverbial attic,  I identify my feelings and unpack them rather quickly, as it were.

For the record, I rattled off my favorite things to do without hesitating during that recent conversation.  My answer went like this: Writing, reading, and going out with my husband.
But my personal legacy?  That one’s easy.  I don’t have to take a class for that one.  My legacy is Middle Passages.  It’s this.

What's your personal legacy?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fun with Fact and Fiction

I’ve mentioned before that I am an inveterate re-reader.  For our trip to visit our daughter who is spending six months working in the Charleston area, I brought along the novel Islands, by southern author Ann Rivers Siddons that I still keep on my shelf.  While I didn’t connect the dots until I started it on the plane, re-reading it brought new meaning because the tale takes place exactly where we visited.  Over the week, images that had already seemed to clear to me through the lens of Siddons' writing, became real in the experiencing.

For this trip, I’d created a list of places to visit that I’d learned about through reading Siddons and other southern authors, and sightseers that we were, we crossed almost everything off.  We walked the Battery and White Point Gardens.  We ogled the colorful houses on Tradd Street, toured plantations and waterfront homes.  We walked a pier in Mount Pleasant, waded in pre-tropical-storm-waves on Isle of Palms, and ate at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island.  We took sunset pictures on Shem Creek and burned ourselves silly while playing bocce on Folly Beach.  At each location, a shiver of familiarity hit as I remembered fictional scenes that occurred in the same places. 

This especially hit home early in our visit, the evening after we drove from West Ashley to John’s Island via Main Road, cross the Maybank Highway, and down Bohicket.  That night, I read a chapter in Islands before I went to sleep, and wouldn’t you know, the main character took the exact same trip to get to her creek house.
We drove some variation of that car trip several times over our visit, and for the rest of the week, each time we crossed the bridge over the Stono River, I tried to see the area from the MC’s eyes.  As we descended from its great height, I looked to the left and right, over the marshes, thinking if I just knew the right road to turn onto I might actually find the banks where the MC harvested oysters, or the long dock where she tied up her boat.  If only the GPS could have told me the location of the marsh banks where dolphins herded schools of fish, or where the MC sat silently in her whaler while a beady-eyed alligator floated log-like down the creek.  

I know.  The novel is fiction.  But, without a doubt, we toured roads and byways the author knows by heart. I’ve always loved stories that take place in familiar terrains. This time, I traveled a thousand miles and felt as if I’d become part of the action. 

 Sunset from a moving car, over the Stono Bridge.