Traveling When I Can Where I Can

Travel is still up in the air for most of us. I have two trips to France planned for the later part of the year…hopefully, those will happen. I have a trip planned soon for St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands), but that one is looking “iffy”. Two trips have already been canceled for this year so far and moved to next year…they should be fine. It should be fine to travel by then. Right?

So, in the meantime, I am traveling short distances for short amounts of time. Like this week. This week, I am at Edisto Beach, South Carolina, a short drive from home. I am with my college girlfriends and we are all celebrating our “Big Birthday Year” together…at the beach…with lots of cake…and bellinis…and masks. The good times are rolling!

Travel is supposed to be fun and rewarding. Both are true about this trip, but it has a deeper meaning, too. We have lost members of our class. We have learned to treasure our differences and enjoy our time together. Life is short…and at our ages, it is getting shorter.

So spending time together, without the headache of air travel, with the beach as our background, is a win-win for all of us. We have a house on the front beach – a bit of an expense, but well worth it. The sound of the surf lulls us to sleep at night and wakes us twinned with the bright sun in the morning. We step off the porch and into the sand, walking the beach just after sun-up. The light breeze chills us until the sun’s rays strengthen and warm us. We speak softly enjoying the early morning quiet. Soon enough everyone will be awake and talking…and talking…and talking. 

What fun it is to reminisce about our college years at our small South Carolina Presbyterian college, Erskine College. There were great days, good days, bad days, and truly horrible days mixed together in those four years. They helped shape and define us. We were all touched by those years. We are better people because we shared that innocent time together. Now, we share our “golden years” together. Remembering, talking, laughing, and even crying. Life can be hard, unfair, disappointing. But, it can be happy, fun, and peaceful. There is a balance.

Travel is a part of that life, a part of that balance. We are together, traveling from our individual worlds to our shared world. And, in life, being together is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves and each other. So, my friends, go…travel…whenever you can…wherever you can.

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Who Can Write What?

I am concerned. Actually, I am more than just concerned, I am really worried. I have just discovered that editors and agents will not consider a manuscript with a person of color as the main character(s) unless a person of color writes the book. That applies to fiction and non-fiction. I understand that we desperately need more people of color as authors, but how many books about truly important people of color will not get written now because the people who are intrigued enough to write about them are not necessarily people of color?

I was a reading specialist and spent twelve years in a high poverty, high minority school. We were 92 – 100 percent poverty and 96 – 98 percent African-American. Those children desperately needed to learn about the truly incredible people of color who have done so much throughout history.

I taught my students about Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, George Washington Carver, Ernest Just, and, of course, Martin Luther King, Jr. I taught them about the great women of color who changed our world for the better. Women like Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, and Madam C. J. Walker. I offered them the opportunity to see how people of color have influenced history, changed history, made history.

Some of the books I used were written by people of color, but many were not. Did it make those books less important? Less factual? Did the people contained in those books count for less, because their place in history was being shared by a person not of color?

I don’t have the answers. I don’t profess to be the expert. What I do know is that I want peoples of color’s stories to be shouted from the roof-top, from the mountain-top, so everyone will know them, their stories, and their places in history. Isn’t that the most important thing?

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We Learn From Reading, Don’t We?

When we read, we learn things. At least, that is what I always told my daughters when they were growing up. The truth is that we can read many different things and still learn very little. After watching the crazy-show of the last election, one thing I learned was that one can read anything – and everything – slanted to fit one’s perspective. By reading only left or right leaning articles, one can actually learn very little of value.

I know that sounds jaded, or defeatist, or maybe just sad, but the truth isn’t always out there – or, at least, not easily found. Sometimes, it takes work to read between the lines, to find a buried article, to locate the truth. It is important, though, that we continue to read until we find those nuggets of truth…no matter how difficult it might be.

Far too many people read only Facebook memes, slanted to confirm a thought or slanted to force an emotion. They spend their entire lives screaming about how unfair life is, how the “other side” is out to get them, to get someone. Yet, they never go looking for primary sources, the real facts.

I had a graduate professor once tell me (in an educational statistics class) that one can skew any data to follow the path one wants. She was correct, of course. We really can skew the data to say what we want. But…But, should we? Doesn’t everyone have a responsibility to share data clearly, cleanly, without bias? Or is bias so ingrained, so prevalent, that there is no way to be truly unbiased?

I guess the only way to answer that is to take the time to read things in total, from the original source. To check out “facts”, and then double-check them. I believe we have a responsibility to do exactly that. Although, sometimes, I think I am tilting at windmills; hopeful in a hopeless world. I am always looking for people who think as I do, who want to know “just the facts, ma’am” (like on Dragnet). Am I all alone out there? How about you? Do you read for the unvarnished facts or for the slanted facts?

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Traveling Close to Home

We had some friends come visit last week from California so we took them all over Charleston. They had never been in the South, South Carolina, or Charleston. We had a wonderful time being tourists in our own town. We went to Middleton Plantation, the Tea Farm, Angel Oak, Deep Water Winery. We spent the day downtown Charleston and went on a carriage ride, took the boat to Fort Sumter, had supper at Tommy Condon’s while listening to Carroll Brown sing wonderful Irish pub songs. We wandered all over Mt. Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island, including Ft. Moultrie. We ate at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island and Henry’s downtown.

It was so much fun to be able to go out and see things. To enjoy the great out-of-doors. To spend time with dear friends. To just be. This past year has been hard on everyone, not visiting, not traveling, not doing. Zoom calls and Duo happy hours are great in a vacuum but never really take the place of togetherness. Don’t you agree?

As more and more people become vaccinated and feel comfortable going out and being around people, we will see more and more people out and about, traveling, going here and there once again. I can’t wait. I love traveling, going almost anywhere. We have trips planned for later in the summer and into the fall, but for now…for today, it is wonderful just traveling close to home.

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Writing Through the Confusion

I have obviously lost my mind. Hmmm, last week I wrote about Lost Charleston and this week I have decided that I have lost my mind. I believe a theme might be arising…maybe…or maybe I am just nuts. There is every possibility.

At any rate, I write sweet romances and cozy mysteries. I write true-life stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I do not write non-fiction biographies. Ever. Never ever. And yet. And yet. And yet, I have started a biography about a free black man who was born free in Charleston, SC before the American Civil War. He led a fascinating life. His descendants have lived fascinating lives. I am not ready to share his name…you will have to wait for that.

Even though I am thrilled to be writing it, I am finding it difficult going. Do I write a dry biography? Or a creative non-fiction biography? Or a narrative non-fiction biography? Do you see my dilemma? What do I do? Who knew there were so many ways to write a biography.

Of course, I am good at writing fiction. Maybe, I should write a historical fiction…a fictional character thrown into his life. That actual would be the easiest of the bunch. But. But, I never go the easy route. Do you?

Can you imagine being a little black boy in a city filled with black enslaved people? Can you imagine his mother, a freed black woman, and her fear for her children? How about a free black child’s education. So many interesting ways to write this. So many angles. So much material.

However, the clock ticks its relentless journey through the day. So I must get to my writing…as soon as I decide how I am going to write this book.

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Things Lost to Time

We are not going to address the day of the week; we are just going to move forward. I am reading the book, Lost Charleston by our dear friend, J. Grahame Long. If you haven’t read any of his books, do. They are wonderful. Every single one. Grahame is the former chief curator for the Charleston Museum, and is now the Director of Museums for the Historic Charleston Foundation.

I love his book, Lost Charleston, because it shines a light on things missing, lost, or buried in Charleston, SC. Charleston has always prided herself on preserving her history, and she has done an admirable job doing so. Just walk around downtown (the peninsula) and you will see how true that is. From Charleston’s earliest days to the very recent past, history is everywhere. Ah, but. But, some has disappeared. If you go in search of the Quaker cemetery, or early graves at First (Scot’s) Presbyterian Church, or even some of the early cemeteries, you will not find them. Why? Because they have disappeared from view. Lost to the eye, but not to the knowledge of Charleston. You can find the different plats that show the city cemeteries, though they are under city buildings. You can find the marker for the Quaker cemetery on the fence side of the city parking garage on King Street. You can find the headstones in and around the sanctuary at First (Scot’s).

So many things end up lost to time. People, places, entire civilizations. They say that no one truly dies as long as there is one person to remember them, and that is true. The same with places. My mother and I are celebrating thirty years of genealogy work this May, and I can tell you that every person and place we have searched for and found lives in our memories. We have wandered as far away as Scotland to find ancestors, and were thrilled to discover their former homes, their current resting places. They are not forgotten.

I often wonder about the children who lived in days long gone. Some we have names for though they didn’t live to adulthood. I wonder even more about those who are lost to the ages because they lived only between the census years. I see some women in the census record who are marked with “mother of how many children” and “number of those children living”…and the numbers don’t match up. When I look back at the census before, none of those “missing” children are there, so I know that they were born and passed during the ten years between the census takings. My heart goes out to those children because they are truly lost.

It is important that we embrace our loved ones while we can. It is important to remember those who have gone before us. It is important to visit, to see places, to thinks of those who have gone before, to remember that life is fleeting, that places can be fleeting.

We must thank those who take time to find the people and places who have become lost. They are the heroes of this world. They search out what is no more to shine a light on it/them in the present. That is the gift they give to the world. So, thanks Grahame, for you book, Lost Charleston. The people and places in your book are no longer lost or forgotten. They live on in the memory of everyone who reads your book.

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The Future is Bright for Traveling…That’s My Story and I Am Sticking to It

Yup. It’s Wednesday…again. What can I say? I would looove to say that I was traveling so I couldn’t post. Nope. Can’t say that. Honestly, I just think there is not much grey matter left. Wait a minute, I will blame it on COVID fatigue. That will do it. That’s my excuse. What do you say? Will you give me a pass?

Well, one thing I have been doing is getting everything ready for my trip to France for the month of September. I am so excited to be spending the entire month there. My husband and I are flying over the first of the month and spending a few days in Paris before we head out to the house we have rented in the Loire Valley.

He will be leaving after a week and then my college girlfriends will arrive. After a week with them, they will be heading home while one of my dearest couple-friends will be arriving. After that final week, we three will be off to Paris to end my time in France. After not traveling for an entire year, this will be a good way to “ease” back into it.

In preparation for spending a month in France, I have dedicated some time each week to reading books and watching youtube vlogs. I have read: Hidden in Paris by Corin Gantz; Summer at the Little French Cafe by Karen Clarke; My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh; Are We French Yet? by Keith Van Sickle. I am reading The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel. The vlogs I am watching are: Diane’s “Oui in France”; Alex’s “French in Plain Sight”; and “Rural France Journals”. There are also a number of newsletters and blogs that I follow, including: David Lebovitz; “Secrets of Paris”; and “Bonjour Paris”.

Do you have any recommendations of books, vlogs, blogs, or newsletters that I should be reading/watching? I am always happy to receive recommendations.

I am also spending time every day with Duolingo. Woo-hoo, I am up to 349 days. It takes practice and time, but I am determined to not be some “ugly American”. Trust me, I have seen too many of them.

I have traveled to France for many years, beginning when I was seventeen. I have gone with groups, friends, and family. I can never think of anywhere better to visit than France. I have been on school trips, motor coach tours, river cruises, and itineraries that I have put together. I have seen just about everything in Paris and have been to most of the departments in France – the old and the new. I always joke that the only place I never get lost is in Paris. I am convinced that I must have lived there in another life…that or I started pouring over the map of Paris when I was twelve and never stopped.

It will be wonderful to travel again. To get on an airplane heading for new adventures. To see old and new sights (and sites). To just go.

How about you? Where are you off to as soon as it is safe?

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My Writing Life

Do you ever have one of those days when you wonder why you do it? Why write? It would surely be easier to just sit back and watch mind-numbing television for hours on end. Don’t some people do that? But, no. That is not who you are. What is not who I am. So, I write. I was busy writing last year and ended up being published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Laughter is the Best Medicine. I was tickled pink to have my story chosen. It validated everything; all of the writing I had done to that point. Yay, I had made it…no, really. Obviously, I had. I was published.

But, the reality is, being published is such a small part of writing. For me, it’s not even the most important part of writing. I write because I must. I have so many stories crowding into the corners of my mind…and they want out. They let me know if I am ignoring them. They howl when one gets more attention than the others. I guess that is why I am working on three books right now. Two are murder mysteries that are the first two in a series, but the third is totally different. It is a creative non-fiction book.

The two cosy mysteries are easy. They are about three college girlfriends who always have each other’s back – even when dead bodies turn up. Here is the blurb for the first one. What do you think?

“There is a dead girl on the quiet, South Carolina Lowcountry island called Fripp Island. A dead girl in a bathing suit coverup and one pink flip-flop. The three women who discover her body are going to have the devil’s own time trying to find the killer while staying out of the way of the surly police detective. Although, the good-looking, helpful detective is an entirely different matter. Now, when the dead girl shows up and wants to help them find her killer, things really get out of hand. Throw in a kitten, an ouija board, an out-of-control golf cart, and a hermit, and the girls find themselves careening from one end of the island to the other, trying to outrun a desperate killer intent on keeping his secrets silent…and anyone who gets in his way.”

It’s a fun write and, hopefully, a fun read. Once I finish writing it, then I will start looking for an agent and a publisher. No one ever said writing would be easy. But, writing is what I do. It is who I am.

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What I Read…What You Read

Okay, so here it is on Wednesday when I remember that I made a commitment to write and publish each Tuesday! Honestly, there are times when I think I have lost what little mind I have…er…had.

At any rate, I have been reading a lot of books during this pandemic. I love to read mysteries (Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Peters, Susan Boyer, etc., etc., etc.), espionage/thrillers (Brad Taylor, Vince Flynn, Kyle Mills, etc., etc., etc.), biographies/autobiographies (Agatha Christie, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Elisabeth Elliot, etc., etc., etc.), and almost any genre you can think of. From fantasy to true crime.

I am currently reading three books at once – I know, it’s crazy. My husband asks me how I keep them all straight. I don’t really see the problem. Maybe it’s because I have different genres going at the same time. Right now, I am reading one espionage/thriller, one travel story, and one murder mystery.

Maybe that is why I can’t remember to write and publish my blog on Tuesdays…or maybe I really am nuts. There is always that possibility. Or, maybe, I spend so much time reading that I forget to write. Maybe.

Anyway, what do you like to read? I am interested in what your reading list looks like.

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The Travel Bug

I am not terribly bright. When I started writing this blog again, I decided to post once per week. Then, I had to decide which day to post. That seems easy enough…uh-huh, sure. I thought about Mondays, but I already spend part of Mondays reading other blogs that I have been following for years, or weeks. So, Mondays were out. Well, how about Tuesdays? That is a good day for me, not too much going on. Great, Tuesdays it is. Except. Except last week, I got this idea in my tiny, little brain that I had decided to post on Wednesdays. Duh. It is so sad to have so few brain cells to rub together. At least, I am back on Tuesdays…this week.

I don’t know about you but I have truly missed traveling. I have missed all of the places, sounds, smells, people, and new experiences that make up traveling. I love to go…anywhere. Okay, maybe not so much anywhere cold, or really buggy, or terribly dangerous, but I love to travel. Really. I do.

I think my absolute favorite place to travel to is France. At this point, I have been to most of the country. There are pockets of places I have not seen, but, for the most part, I have traveled to all of the major places and many of the minor places. I adore Paris. Remarkably, it is the only place in the world where I never get lost. I can’t explain it, especially since my dear husband says I can get lost backing out of our driveway.

I love traveling by train, car, bus, boat, or airplane. I have even traveled by ferry and by cable car (don’t ask). I started traveling when I was twelve, and I have never tired of it. I have lost track of how many states and countries I have visited. There is some little Facebook challenge where you are supposed to say how far you and your sweetie have traveled together. I liked looking at it until I realized that my husband and I have traveled a very long way together. Although, I am doubtful that I am really going to get him to Australia…that might end up being a “girls trip”.

That’s another thing. I have traveled with my parents and siblings; my husband and children; my mother and children; my mother, husband, and children; my mother; my husband; my girlfriends; friends from different organizations; school groups; and by myself. I would say that I will travel with anyone, but, in today’s world, I really would draw the line at “some people”…you know, like axe murderers.

I am so looking forward to getting back to traveling. This past year has been so difficult. Travel has really consisted of going from my house to my back garden – not terribly exciting, I know. Hopefully, in the next few months, the world will reawaken, reopen and we can get moving, traveling, seeing friends and family, seeing bright, new places. I am so ready for that. How about you?

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