Saturday, December 21, 2013

Our Christmas Caroling Troop.

Tonight I attended an oyster roast at my pal June's house. June and I have known each other for almost ten years, and her daughter has been one of my favorite kids since I was in graduate school and I took care of Baby Julia at a Montessori preschool - my day job at the time.

Anyhoo, Julia had a few girls over during the party. Like most preteen girls, they were sitting around, looking terribly bored and complaining there was nothing to do except fiddle with their iPods and gossip.

I tried to steer the conversation into a different direction. First, I asked what they all wanted for Christmas. They all said they wanted tablets, preferably iPads. Sigh. I knew I had to get them out of the house. Eventually, I did.

First we played hide and seek, the trusted standby. I found very few places that would accept my five-foot-nine body quite as easily as the old days, but it was fun nevertheless. My adult friends who were also at the party were highly amused at my willingness to hang out with the kids, but hey. Eleven-year-old girls are fun.

TV tag came next (I think they may have made up a few television shows) and then, on a whim, I blurted out the winning idea of the night.

"Let's go caroling!" I said, without really thinking it through.

"YEAH!" They shouted in unison. I was officially committed.

Of course, there were many occasions when i was a kid that I caroled around the neighborhood I grew up in - mostly with my little sister and my friend Gayden, plus her brother - but it had been absolutely years since I'd attempted knocking on doors and singing songs. But I couldn't let the girls down. We were doing it, even in the 75 degree weather and no real plan of a setlist.

And in the end, it all worked out. We sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Deck the Halls and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, plus a round of Frosty the Snowman on the way home. We managed to pick up a couple of extra singers at one point and got a few photos of the group in full force. I'd say it was a success. The girls had a blast. Frankly, so did I.

Sure, it could have been a chillier night. And we could have been more organized and more in tune. But none of it mattered. The neighbors loved it. 

"This is SO fun!" the girls told me, as they skipped down the street to the next house with white lights. "Thank you for suggesting this!"

I have to admit, I felt triumphant. I mean, if I can convince preteen girls that there are more adventures to be had in this life besides sitting around the living room and griping because your mother won't buy you a smart phone, then that's pretty dang cool.

Now I can't get Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer out of my head.

Fa la la! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Tree-Shopping Tale.

Here's a funny story about my tree purchasing experience a couple weeks ago.

It all started when I went to our usual tree farm, beside our house, with the mission of finding materials for the tabletop tree. The last few Christmases, I've simply obtained scraps of green from the workers (who give it to me for free, weirdly enough) then stuffed it into the metal, tree-shaped decorative thing that my friend Kim made for us years ago.

But this year, when I ran by the tree farm at 8:30 pm, i noticed something unusual: no workers were there to give me my green. The place was deserted and dead silent. I yelled "hello" and wandered around the tent, searching for signs of (human) life. The trees all sat there alone, emitting their heady holiday fragrance. I even knocked on the door of the camper, which I figured might be their home-away-from-home while running the tree farm. No answer.

Then, I saw the most perfect little tree ever - it was even in its own stand. It was exactly the right height and plumpness for our living room and it was nestled in a corner, flanked by its towering cousins. I knew right away it was the tree for me.

So I took it. That's right; I just picked that sucker up, shoved it into the backseat of my Saturn and left the tree farm. Then, I called Brian and confessed I'd just stolen a tree - but that I of course had the intentions to go back and pay for it the next day, once the tree farm opened.

"Am I a bad person?" I asked.

"No, of course not," he replied. "You're paying for it tomorrow."

Which I did. The next day, I rolled up into the tree farm tent and approached the register, armed with my wallet.

"Hi. I took that small tree that was sitting over there in the corner," - I gestured with my hands - "but I still need to pay for it because no one was here when I took it last night."

I expected the guy to question me - or, worse, to call the police - but instead he just rang me up. Maybe it's normal for people to steal trees temporarily and pay for them later?

I went home and shared the story with my friends, who were all rightfully amused. The tree is aglow with lights and ornaments, and I can't look at it without remembering my silly adventure.

A merry holiday to all of you, and remember, it pays to be honest.

Even Buttercup the Cat Recognizes its Magic 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Being the Cool Aunt.

This year, I've spent more time getting to know my friends' children than I have ever before - and I love it! A lot of them call me "Aunt Denise;" most of them think of me as being cool. I'm probably not anywhere close to having a kid of my own in the mix, so it's good news that aunthood seems to be my calling. I mean, think of all the television shows and movies that had interesting aunts over the years.

One of the things that devotes me to aunthood is the fact that I'm willing to accompany my friends on kid-friendly activities. Need an adult companion to go with you to birthday party for toddlers? I'm there. But I think what mostly enables me to get along with youngsters is the simple truth I told my pal Kristi the other day - I act like a kid right along with them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Life, Like an Episode of Sex and the City.

I'm 33 years old and I'm single. If you're a Sex & the City fan, perhaps that's all you need to hear to understand a correlation. However, as of late, I've encountered a few scenarios that have really reminded me of my old favorite television show. When the show was actually on the air, I was in my early to mid twenties, and I had NO idea that I would be single after the age of 30 (after all, I had boyfriends galore at the time).

Perhaps this seems like a silly topic for a blog that I mostly restrict to poetry and philosophical pondering. And I'll admit that it is. But it's also a hearty shout-out to other single women in their 30s who might be reading this blog. I really hear you. And don't worry; all names are omitted. Also, don't blame me if you think this whole thing is ridiculous. It's just for fun.

Example One:

 I meet this dude who is my age and seems like a interesting cat. He claims to have a roommate and a pet - thus, single. I invite him to hang out sometime and we schedule a coffee date. Then, we get to the coffee date and he tells me he has a wife who lives in another city - they decided to live apart for work. Go fig.

Example Two:

Guy from college and/or friend zone: I've always thought you were hot, Denise.
Me: That's sweet. Thanks.

(Realization that we are no longer in college or he's no longer eligible and he lives several states away with children and a sometimes-girlfriend. Awkward silence.)

Example Three:

I'm at a networking event and run into this woman I know who just got married a week ago. I congratulate her and her new groom - then, the woman starts trying to set me up with some dude who works with her husband at Whole Foods.

Woman I Know: He's JUST your age! And SUCH a nice guy!
Groom: He's actually overweight and sort of unattractive. But are you interested?
Me: Check, please.

Example Four:

A friend of mine, who is married with kids, hosts amazing parties and I always attend - as the only single woman in her thirties. Plus, I always bring booze.

Example Five:

My roommate: Maybe you really like women.
Me: ?????

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Up, Up and Away.

This past Monday was pretty darn exciting, as Mondays go. I joined my trusty photographer, Ronnie Martinelli, on the journey to the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport - it's a small airport for private aircrafts only, out on 17 North. Mount Pleasant Magazine is doing a January/February feature about it and we needed artwork to go with.

I expected that we would snap some photos of airplanes and be done with it. I surely was not expecting the chance to actually fly. But fly we did! Of course, I've flown plenty of times on regular airlines, going on various vacations. But this was my first time in a "car with wings," as I called it.

Ronnie had the front seat, along with our awesome pilot and instructor, Scot, so I crawled happily into the backseat and put on the obligatory headphones. It was all just as exciting - the takeoff, the ascent into the air - and even better, no awkward stranger sat next to me and no babies cried under the hum of the motor.

The morning was cloudy, so we flew a little lower than usual, recognizing the buildings, streams and beaches of the East Cooper area. I snapped a few photos with my Android phone, but I'm ready to see what Ronnie captured with his actual camera.

Scot let Ronnie do some of the flying as well. Ronnie was slightly nervous, having never flown a plane before, but he didn't kill us - obviously, unless ghosts keep blogs.

We landed safely and I bragged a little bit to Brian, who elected not to join the photo shoot that morning.

"You didn't tell me you'd be flying," he said.

That's the thing about being one of the editors at Mount Pleasant Magazine. I never know where the days, or the photo shoots, are going to take me.

Sometimes it might be right off the ground!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

That Halloween Fragrance.

Tonight I went trick-or-treating with my best friend Mandie and her 6-year-old son, Cameron. It was highly amusing, especially since I haven't been on a trick-or-treat expedition in goodness knows how long.

Plus, it's been a good Halloween in general, from the time I woke up this morning. I had lunch with my other best pal, Alice, plus my tutee showed me some awesome magic tricks - turns out he's quite the magician - and I collected just enough fun-sized candy bars to keep from fainting before dinner.

Mandie loaned me a pair of devil horns, a tail and a pitchfork and we set about exploring the neighborhood with Cam (who was dressed as a pirate), reminiscing about how different 2013 is from 1989 and making plans for after the candy rounds. We had a delicious dinner, complete with jell-o shots and half priced appetizers (Cam fell asleep; epic sugar crash). Later on, Mandie and I topped off the night with some red wine in pumpkin-shaped goblets and a viewing of The Lost Boys. Which seemed appropriate, since I'm making the trek to Florence tomorrow to see my mom. It happens to be her favorite vampire movie.

But one of the best parts about this year's Halloween was, oddly enough, the moment when I stuck my face into Cameron's pumpkin bucket, filled to the brim with an assortment of chocolate, lollipops, fruit chews and other dental nightmares. That heady, sugar-and-chocolate smell rushed into my nostrils and brought me right back to my own childhood, to sitting on the floor in my grandmother's den, dumping out my own container of loot and triumphantly sorting through everything.

"That is the best smell," I exclaimed to Cameron, my nose deep inside the wrappers. "It reminds me of Halloweens from long ago."

He didn't quite understand, of course. But one day, he will. That's the thing about childhood and adulthood. You never know when you're going to find a bridge between the two.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Goat Island.

If you travel over the connector heading toward the Isle of Palms and look off to your left side, you might notice Goat Island, a small community with a friendly cluster of neighbors who all live their lives right in the middle of Charleston's busy suburbs with remarkable simplicity.

I visited Goat Island this past weekend and I had a wonderful time. My hostess, Sara Sanders, picked me up on a small motor boat from the Morgan Creek docks. I climbed into the boat carefully, my notebook tucked into the nook between my body and arm. It was a gorgeous day. Despite the fact that we were surrounded by people on elaborate party boats, drinking beer and sunning themselves in the October sun, I felt like Sara and I were on a secret expedition.

Her house was charming. It was the kind of house I would hope to have - beach casual and filled to the brim with items worthy of conversation. In the back she has two pet goats, both I fed with a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios. Their names were Muriel and Otis. And let's not forget her friendly lab, Callie.

One of the best parts of the morning was traveling the dirt road in Sara's golf cart to visit the neighbors. We rode through the thick brush and Sara would point out the different houses (some quite hidden in the trees) along the stretch of "road," telling me about each neighbor. It enthralled me that she knew everyone. The island is so intimate, yet everyone has the space to enjoy the entire, wild world.

Of course, Sara's neighbors were talkative and welcoming. They gave me a tour of their main house and guest house. Everyone is hospitable on the island - perhaps it is the fact that you can arrive only by boat. I've always noticed how much friendlier people are on the water. I even read them a poem.

I didn't want to leave Goat Island but the call of duty eventually demanded that I do so. After a yummy lunch, including a piece of chocolate cake, Sara brought me back to the docks. Fortunately, she said I was welcome to visit again any time that I wanted to. It was probably the best invitation I've ever gotten.

I might take her up on it soon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Unguided Tour of Coastal Carolina University, 2013.

The other week I visited my old alma mater, Coastal Carolina University. I spent four years there, from 1998-2002,  while I busily worked on my B.A. in English. While it seems rather long ago now, my affection for the place hasn't changed in the least. Originally, I drove up to Conway to attend the Dr. Paul Rice Memorial Concert on the Thursday night before my poetry retreat. It was perfect - Dr. Rice was my poetic mentor, and it was the best way I could think of to kick off the weekend. Friday's work could be done remotely, after all.

After spending a lovely night near campus after the concert, luxuriating in the guest room at a friend's house, I decided to visit Coastal again on Friday morning. The concert on Thursday night, while beautiful and fulfilling, had not quite squelched my desire to roam my old haunt. So, I threw my duffle into my car trunk and headed for what used to be the visitor's parking beside the Wall Building - but more on that later.

There's so much to say about my experience! I really made it happen for myself. I mean, other 33-year-olds might have walked around, admired (or lamented) the progress of campus and new buildings, then drove away. I, on the other hand, really sank my teeth into it. So, I've decided to compile a list of the highlights. Here goes!

1. Breakfast at the CINO Grille. This was where I began my romp about campus. It looked nothing like the days I would order a grilled cheese and pore over my philosophy notes. A very nice, close to graduating senior helped me figure out how the eff to order eggs on the fancy, new computer. The funniest moment was when I got in line with my food and large coffee (using a debit card, not a student ID) and mentioned to the woman who rang me up that I graduated in 2002. She responded she'd been working there since then!

"...but I don't remember you," she said.


2. I totally wigged out when I initially thought that the Kimbel Library was gone, only to be replaced by some fancy "information center." So I did what any demanding alumna would do - I tapped a chick in front of me on her shoulder, desperate to find out the truth.

"Where is the library? The old one?" I asked, my voice warbling with emotion.
"What old library? Where was it? Across the street?" She and her pal were clueless.

Luckily, I finally realized that my dumbass hadn't seen that the old library was right there all along - it was just utterly remodeled to the point of my not recognizing it from that angle of the sidewalk. Sheesh.

3. The ice-cream-cone-alarm-incident, as I've now come to call it, was by far the best part of the day. I waltzed into the freshman cafeteria and breezed right over to the woman checking IDs like I owned the joint. I explained that I graduated in 2002 and "just wanted to look around." She waved me in.

Moments later, I discovered the soft serve machine and helped myself to a cone of chocolate and vanilla swirl. I told myself the damn place owed me - I'd given them thousands of dollars for my education and by golly, they could spare my midmorning snack. I took my prize out into the new courtyard beside the freshman dorm and licked the cone nostalgically. Did I really steal it? I guess it depends on who you ask. But when I tried to exit the fenced-in seating area, something crazy happened - THE BUILDING ALARM WENT OFF. FULL BLAST. EVERYONE COULD HEAR IT.

Apparently, it was the emergency exit.

I muttered a few words I probably would've never said as an innocent student, then hightailed it, dripping cone included, to the nearest place that wasn't the cafeteria: the freshman dorm. Two resident assistants sat behind the desk, looking bored. They didn't care that I'd set the alarm off. They also didn't care that I was eating ice cream over their desk, nor that I got on the elevator and rode it to the third floor like I belonged there. I guess I don't look as old as I feel.

4. Hanging with the people that currently live in my old freshman dorm room, 306, was both heart-wrenching and awesome. You see, I decided, once I darted onto the elevator, to find my old room from 1998. I couldn't quite remember the number, but I figured I'd go on intuition. Eventually, I realized that the two freshman boys in front of me in the hallway were getting ready to unlock the doorknob to what used to be my home! What are the odds?!

"Not to be weird," I began, (I figured i had nothing to lose after stealing ice cream and setting alarms off.) ...but I used to live in this very room as a freshman 15 years ago!"

They were awestruck.

"Come in!" they beckoned. The place was the usual pigsty. I politely stood in the corner and chatted with them for a good twenty minutes or so, about everything from life at Coastal, to adulthood, to the chance that they'd make any money based on their majors. It was so cool. 

After I parted ways with the guys, I promptly met some friendly chicks who showed me what the apartment style dorms, which I'd lived in as a sophomore and junior, look like these days. Overall, none of the dorms have changed much, other than the fancy names. But it was pretty interesting to find out for myself.

5. Refusing my undeserved parking ticket was not really necessary (What can campus police do to me, take away my degree??) but it was still fun. I called the number on the back of my ticket that awaited me at my car -which was parked in a spot marked visitor! - and raised hell with the public safety peeps.

"I graduated from this place in 2002 and I parked in a spot marked visitor so I could look around and see what's new on campus!" I bellowed into my phone over lunch at the Market Common, once the office finally called back.

"Ma'am, we'll forget about the ticket this time, but you need a visitor pass to visit the campus," the woman on the other end explained.

Whatever. I do what I want on that campus, obviously.

In conclusion, though I spent ample time reminiscing in the hallways of the English building, sitting in the courtyard, walking in and out of new buildings and thinking back to my glory days, my favorite parts of the morning turned out to be the interactions I had with students, staff and people that visitors might not usually strike up conversations with. I feel like I got the real scoop on Coastal Carolina University, circa 2013. And I have to admit I'll probably go back in a few years - or sooner - and give myself another tour.

But next time,  I'll remember not to use the emergency exit.

Go Chants!

I remember (and love) this view. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Autumn Harvest (of Ideas).

Friends, it has been a long time. I haven't blogged in several weeks and I've missed it.

But, as each of you probably knows, there are times when we must absorb the strangeness and the mystery of life like a sponge and do little else. As a writer, I feel that every summer is mostly like that. The cooler months are more reflective for me and are when I do my best writing. Meanwhile, during the warmer months, I tend to sit back and simply take life in.

There has been plenty to take in this summer, most of it good but some not so great. Today, I received the heart-wrenching news that Georgetown, SC, suffered an extensive fire that devastated many of the riverfront businesses. One of those businesses was Harborwalk Books, an independent bookstore that housed many volumes of poetry. In fact, though I only visited the store once, I bought a book of Adrienne Rich's poems over 4th of July weekend, on the way to Litchfield to spend the holiday with my family. I remember exclaiming how great the poetry selection was. I will miss the opportunity to visit again.

There are many other things that struck me this summer. I can't write about them all, but I know that they will resurface in my own poems and prose as the days shorten and I cover my arms with the comfort of long sleeves. Fortunately, I'm kicking writing season off the right way this weekend - I'm visiting my beach house in Litchfield with a few of my dearest poet-friends. I can't wait to spend the whole weekend talking, sharing stories and writing.

Photo by Bryan Penberthy

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Cover of My Book.

I strive to keep my blogs on Eating Gardenias pretty lighthearted and positive. I know there've been a few times I've slipped up and let a serious, or negative, topic seep through. I suppose this is a somewhat serious topic but I feel inclined to write about it anyhow.

As a youngster, I was not secure about my appearance. I was ridiculed for having frizzy hair, unusual features, gangly limbs and whatever else you can think of. Therefore, I gained a somewhat skewed self image during the "dancing queen" years.

This is tough to admit, especially on a public blog, but I still struggle all the time. Today, for example, I had an interesting experience at a cosmetic spa in downtown Charleston. I was fortunate to get assigned an article about the place, and I looked forward to being pampered with a facial and expert makeup application afterward.

But after the facial, with my face naked and glowing, my old insecurities crept back up. I wanted a private moment with myself in the ladies' room to look at my skin, adjust my hair and "check back into the reality hotel," as Brian would say. But my esthetician (who was super nice and accommodating; she just didn't know that I'm insecure) watched me gaze into the mirror post-facial, taking in the reflection of my face with zero makeup and a sheen of expensive moisturizer.

Next, I reluctantly followed her out to the florescent lights of the cosmetic counter, where a makeup artist waited to manipulate my mug. She followed my instructions to "keep things natural," and I could tell she was genuinely enjoying the process by how she kept smiling to herself, but, well, in the end my face still looked...strange. It didn't look like the face that greets me in the mornings after I apply my hodge-podge of cheap drugstore makeup. Not that I looked bad. Just ...odd.

Of course, the makeup artist and esthetician raved over me heartily, both before and after. They talked about how great my skin is, how pretty I looked after the makeup job and a slew of other compliments. It was nice, but it made me pretty uncomfortable.

 "You guys say this to everyone," I finally said, somewhat sheepishly. (Accepting compliments has never been my strong point.)

"We see beauty in everyone," agreed the makeup artist. "It's our profession."

I have to admit that was a good answer.

Later, I kept looking at my shimmery eye shadow and slightly darker lipstick in the mirror while I made dinner and reflected (pun intended) on how, really, I didn't look that different. I realize now that my makeup looked strange to me because I let someone else handle my face and talk about my appearance. In short, I was just feeling insecure. But, the makeup artist's declaration on how beauty is visible in everyone definitely resonates.

It's a hard lesson for me to learn, but I need to practice every day.

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Mother, My Rock.

The other day, I was driving to work and one of my all time favorite songs came on: "Hey Joe," sung by Jimi Hendrix.

It's a great song, but I think at least one of the reasons I love it so much (and kept turning it up, louder and louder, in my car until I couldn't detect when Brian was trying to call me back) is because I remember my mom playing it for me on an old record she had when I was a little girl.

My mom has the most sincere affection for rock music of any person I've ever known. And, unlike many almost-60-year-olds, her devotion to loud, emotional guitar riffs has not diminished over the years of her life only to be replaced by sappy "adult contemporary" or whatever the hell. Nope, my mother still rocks, quite literally. She still gets excited when she hears a favorite song and turns it up - WAY up. She still knows how to dance to any tune that she loves. She still likes live music in small bars. And, she is probably responsible for my own musical reality.

After all, I did not spend the 1990s listening to Biggie, Tupac or Widespread Panic like some of my classmates did. I went from adoring my mom's old records (everything from Steppenwolf to the Stones) to embracing the grunge era, which my mom heartily approved of.

"Will you make me a tape of that?" she'd ask enthusiastically, watching me play air guitar along to Pearl Jam's "Jeremy." And I would.

After I left home, I of course became exposed to other types of music - disco and classical and hippie shit and, yes, even a little bit of the rap I missed out on - but I never stopped identifying the most with rock.

Nowadays, when I'm asked that common question about what I listen to, I always name the separate genres I appreciate, but I always finish with rock, in the most definitive way possible.

"I'm mostly a rock person," I always tell people.

And thanks to my mother, I am.

Hells yes. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How it All Starts.

This evening, I ventured to the utterly rainy Isle of Palms with my trusty photographer, ready to scout out a spot for our upcoming cover shoot next week. It was a soggy occasion, but we managed to snap a few ideas with the iphone.

And, right before that, I worked on my "About the Cover" page whilst having happy hour at Basil. (They have pretty good happy hour, by the way.)

It's funny to think about how the cover of the magazine gets started - with two women walking in the rain and snapping phone pictures - and how  content evolves from a notebook page scrawled in ink.

It all reminds me of something my favorite poetry professor, Dr. Paul Rice, used to write about. He had this collection of poems I loved that focused about how we can't always trace things back to their beginnings. And, how when we do manage to trace them, the beginnings aren't always recognizable.

Today was rough. I was tired and grouchy for a good portion of it, and I had a lot to do, not all of it fun. But when I take the time to really think about the origins of the magazine I work for (and of all magazines, books and artwork) I feel much more grateful for the process.

A little sunshine would have been nice, though.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Life is But a Dream.

Today, I went canoeing with two of my best gal pals, Mandie and Alice, plus Cameron, Mandie's six-year-old son.

It was completely awesome. I've only been in a canoe maybe a couple of times in my life - I'm typically not much for boating - so I'm glad I ditched my musings about going to the library this afternoon and instead, joined them in the James Island County Park for a leisurely paddle. It was a great arm workout and Cameron said that I "did great."

The most interesting part of our journey was when we saw a young alligator, resting near one of the banks. He or she didn't turn around when we floated by, but it was still a bit unnerving. Especially when the fish around us started jumping. We elected to get the heck out of the area. Funny enough, Cameron was the calmest of all. He says he's seen another, bigger alligator in that park during his summer day camp hours, which the counselors have dubbed Ally the Alligator.

"But that wasn't Ally," he concluded. "Ally is bigger."

"OK, then, let's name this one something else," I said. "How about...Alice?"

"No," he replied. "There is already an Alice in this world."

He's a smart kid.

I wore a yellow life vest. Chic, no? 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Sharing Verse.

Jack Johnson, a musician that my friends and I listened to incessantly in college, once sang that it's "always more fun to share with everyone."

Yet, I've been wondering lately how much or how little to share regarding my own poetry. As a poet, I get excited when the "inspirational" portion of writing a poem is complete. And, I have a habit of almost immediately sending that poem out to a few of my friends who like poetry. The problem is, I realize later that I need to make changes to the poem. Once the inspirational "high" wears off, I'm a bit disappointed that I've shared the poem in such early stages. It doesn't stop me from doing it again, though.

I have quite a few friends who are professional poets. They're always proclaiming that you should not share poems that aren't already published - thus, the only poems you'll find on my blog are the links to poems that some other venue has deemed worthy of public consumption. But, secretly, I'm dying to post a poem, or at least a few lines, for y'all to read here.

And today I posted a poem in public, as ill-advised as it might be. Remember how I told y'all that my favorite coffee shop, Troubadours in Mount Pleasant, closed down last week? Well, I wrote a poem about it.

Sure enough, I sent it to a few friends in its early stages. But it went through the process. I workshopped it with my poetry-feature-buddy, Alexandra, and she helped me make some edits.

Next thing I knew, Brian and I got coffee this morning at a place we aren't quite on board with - but at least they had Scotch tape - and decided to cruise by our old haunt and plaster the poem to the front door.

Hours later, when my editorial assistant and I were busy distributing magazines and rode back by the building, I saw that my poem was gone.  (Good thing I snapped a photo, right?)

"Where is my poem?" I whined to Taylor.

"It was taken home by an adoring fan," she replied.

But I wasn't ready to buy that.

What if the owner of the entire building snatched it off the door? I asked myself.
What if someone plum didn't like it? 

But, the truth is, no one knows what happened. Heck, like Brian said, it could have just been the faults of the wind and the less-than-stellar tape. I think what mostly bothers me is that the one time I gave my poem to the world without knowing how it would be received, it simply disappeared.

Still, I can't let a little thing like a vanishing poem stop me from heeding my desire to share when necessary. Though I don't post poems on social media, I'm certain that another occasion will move me to this point.

And maybe somewhere tonight, someone is reading my lines, over and over. Maybe they loved that spot just as much as I did.

Maybe they just love poetry.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Heart, Broken Like a Coffee Mug.

I had an unfortunate experience this week when I attempted to visit my favorite coffee shop in Mount Pleasant - nay, in the Lowcountry.

It was closed.

As in, closed down.

Troubadours Coffee, one of my personal favorite spots to take a breather from my crazy boss, do some writing, sip my favorite iced coffee with frozen coffee ice cubes and hang with Brian when I could lure him away from his office, has simply vanished. They left behind no sign proclaiming what happened - not even a Facebook page message or a goodbye on their website.

It's particularly sad for me and the rest of Mount Pleasant Magazine, because we shot our January/February cover inside that cozy coffee shop. Troubs (as Brian and I called it) became an important part of our lives.

That's always the way it is when a favorite coffee shop shutters its doors. You don't think about the coffee you'll miss, but the atmosphere, the friendly staff and the work you accomplished while sitting comfortably in the chairs. I worked on numerous projects, including the cover shoot, at Troubs, and I always felt welcomed inside the doors and by the baristas who knew exactly how I took my coffee.

No doubt, another coffee shop will open up shortly. That area of Mount Pleasant, like the rest of it, is growing quickly enough that some entrepreneur will revisit the idea. But it won't be Troubs, and it won't fulfill my cup exactly the same way.

Rest in Peace, Troubadours. You will be missed.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When the Wild Goose You're Chasing is a Book.

As a life-long lover of books, I can say with certainty that in the past few days, I've worked harder than I've ever had to for a single book.

It all started when I read an article on Brain Pickings about anxiety and creativity. The article mentioned a book called The Meaning of Anxiety, by Rollo May. It sounded damn interesting - not the usual text bookish or self help workbook about anxiety, but something philosophical instead.

I love philosophy, so I clicked on the "search the world's libraries" link they provide on the site and discovered a copy of the book at the Citadel.

Easy enough, I thought. I'm an alumna there - they should let me check it out.

It was not that easy.

After a few phone calls to the Citadel library and their graduate office, I was told that my Master's degree didn't count in their system, and that the College of Charleston is my "parent" institution, (though I took numerous classes at the Citadel!) so I didn't have alumni privileges. Therefore, I could not check out the book.

I was not a happy camper.

"Why don't you try the Pascal Exchange?" asked the helpful graduate office employee. "We can have it sent to CofC for you to pick up."

Well, while she was coaching me through that website, we discovered that CofC had its own copy of the book. Apparently, it just hadn't been listed on that national search I performed the day before. (Yes, this was taking more than a day.)

But the nasal-voiced College of Charleston library employee told me that their alumni don't get to check out books, period. Unless you pay a fee to become a Friend of the Library, that is.

I had gone from angry to downright sad. Why must it be so difficult to obtain a book? I wasn't ready to give up yet. I called the Citadel back. My friend at the graduate office was surprised when I told her what had happened with my "parent" institution.

"Let me see what I can do," she said. "I want to help you."

She called me back later that day and said that the book was waiting for me at the library! I was thrilled.

But...when I got to the library, I had to convince the people working there that I was telling a true story, since they weren't the ones who'd been notified. Luckily, one woman who knew of my ardent book chase emerged from a back room and declared that I was, indeed, legit. She got down to business creating a Citadel library card for me, which I stuffed into my floral wallet as gleefully as any hard-earned prize.

"I'm sorry this has been such a hassle for you," grumbled the older gentlemen who had doubted my credibility.

"No problem," I said, stroking the dusty spine of the book, which I'd plucked off a shelf of other infrequently-read tomes.

"I'm a lover of books, and this proves to me is that books are still highly valuable, no matter what the cultural nay-sayers want to think," I went on, much to their amusement.  "Who'd have thought that this old book could cause this much dedication?"

They heartily agreed with me. I tucked the book under my shirt since it was raining outside and went to meet Alice for a beer, giddy with triumph.

It's not every day that you win the battles you pick.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More About My Car - An Ode, So Soon After a Gripe.

This is funny, because I just posted about how my car doesn't have air conditioning and how annoying it is. (I'm getting used to it, truthfully.)

And today, I have new respect for my car. We had one of our epic Charleston rainstorms, where it rained for hours until downtown was nothing more than an extension of the harbor. It took me forever to make what is usually a 15 minute drive from Mount Pleasant. I got into my car at 6 p.m. and poured myself a glass of bourbon at 7:30. Whew.

I can't believe my car made it through all that water. I was so nervous, driving behind the SUVs, getting splashed all to hell (and they weren't having nearly the amount of trouble I was having) and praying my little Saturn would not stall out. She's not as young as she used to be, and she's dealt with some strife lately.

But I finally got off the crosstown and breathed a shaky sigh of relief. I saw so many abandoned cars, sitting randomly on streets that had been closed due to flooding, and all I could do was be glad mine wasn't one of them.

Besides giving kudos to my car, I learned an important lesson from this afternoon's rain-related mayhem. The next time this happens, I'm parking at a bar and having cocktails until the commute is over for everyone else. There's no point in hassling myself - I'm a writer, after all. I can work from anywhere.

Here's to being on dry land.

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Is that too much wind on you?"

I have no air conditioning in my car right now. It's not the most pleasant thing I've endured in my life, but it's not the most unpleasant, either. In fact, I decided to compile a list of the things I've discovered while riding around with the windows down.

1. There ARE slight variations in southern summer weather. I am not sure I noticed it like this before, but, for example, last Thursday was so hot, I thought I was going to die just driving around Mount Pleasant. Friday and Saturday, on the other hand, were a lot more bearable. The temperature dropped a few degrees and I found myself declaring that if every day this summer felt like those days, I wouldn't bother fixing the dang thing. Because of no AC in the car, I find myself eagerly checking out the weather every morning, a ritual usually reserved for the cooler months in Charleston (when we aren't sure if it'll be 45 degrees or 65).

2. My skirt and dress wardrobe is extremely limited. I look at my jeans longingly, knowing that I want to wear them with a tank top, but I opt for the skirt or dress. I need ventilation.

3. Other cars - nice ones too - sometimes don't have air conditioning. I've noticed other people with their windows down on the hottest days, their chins resting wearily inside their palms during motionless red lights. And I've thought to myself, I'm right there with ya.

4. 18-wheelers are loud. Especially when I'm trying to have a phone conversation. As are ambulances, other people's rap music, construction workers and Harleys. AND if I'm not on the phone, I'm playing my own music loudly enough to hear it over the roaring wind.

5. There is NO way my hair is going to look decent again until I get this problem fixed. It has been a frizzy, misshapen mess since I started pumping it full of wind and humidity. I'm tired of wearing it in a bun, but now that I think about it, I always wear my hair in a bun during the summer anyway.

6. I should probably be wearing more sunscreen, because my arm and leg are practically hanging out my window.

7. As I was telling Aaron the other night, it's much harder to daydream and to zone out with my windows down and the world oozing into my car. This might make me a better driver - I'm not sure.

8. I cannot just throw papers haphazardly around my backseat. Those suckers will fly out.

9. People are still willing to have me drive them places. Gas is so expensive, sweating for a while seems fine in comparison.

10. I don't bother to lock my car anymore. I take my computer with me if I have it, I grab my purse, and I leave the car unlocked. If someone wants to steal my hot-ass vehicle, fine with me. Just kidding.

All in all, I think it's time to get the AC fixed, but it's also nice to know that I'm resilient. If anyone has the name of a good, cheap mechanic, I'm all ears. And if you want to drive us around, I'm down for that, too.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Natural Resources.

Today, I got a call from my ex-boss at the Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company, where I worked for over three years. He asked me if I could help out this week, since he's between employees and swamped with projects. I happily obliged, not only because I can use all the extra pocket change I can get (like any writer), but also because he's a friend. I was glad to be his resource.

And (this is a little more random, for sure) I also discovered a great place for a July/August cover shoot this morning - none other than the little creekside dock in the neighborhood where I used to live SIX years ago. It totally sprang into my head on a whim, while I was drinking iced coffee this morning at Troubadours. I asked Brian if he'd go look at the scene with me and offer his opinion. We checked it out, and it was just as I remembered it. I think it's going to work out great.

I've always had a good memory (thanks to my mother, who's pretty much like an elephant) and as I get older I'm noticing how valuable it is. I mean, who would have thought that when I moved into that neighborhood almost seven years ago, as a 26-year-old graduate student (gosh, those were the days), that I would later recall it as the perfect backdrop for a shoot at my magazine gig?

Here's the test shot that Brian took with his phone. Lowcountry perfection, no?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

On Having it All.

So, it seems a bit premature to post something on this topic, since I'm not a mother, nor pregnant, nor dating someone that I would consider starting a family with, nor even dating someone. 

All of that aside, I had a brief text-conversation with one of my best gal pals this morning and it got me thinking about writing and being a mother. Actually, I think about this topic a lot when I spend time with her. She's both a writer and a mother, after all. She has two beautiful sons and a spectacular idea for a novel. How lucky is that?

I should probably also point out that when people ask me if I "want children some day,"sometimes I'll answer that I'm a writer, and that a lot of writers don't have families. It's kind of a dumb thing to say. I guess it's my way of defending myself when I feel put on the spot.

The truth is, plenty of amazing writers have families, and plenty of amazing mothers have the desire to write. My friend said in a text message this morning that she was considering asking her neighbor to watch the boys while she makes time to work on her book. I said that was a great idea; I'm always urging her to make time for writing when she needs it.

And if I ever have kids one day, I hope my best friends do the same. I know I'll still be writing, even if I have to scrawl notes on napkins at kid-friendly restaurants and type them much, much later. Even if I have to ask my neighbor, or other friends who understand as well as this friend does, to come over and help me.

I've read countless articles and blogs in the last few years that proclaim it is tough, if not impossible, for women to "have it all." You've all seen these articles; they claim that a woman can't be an amazing mother and successfully hold down a worthwhile career at one time.

But why does the 9 to 5 grind even matter so much? If we can pull off being amazing mothers and successfully foster our passions (even if we don't make a paycheck doing it), then I think we can say that we have it all.

My friend has it all, in my opinion, because she's passionate about raising her kids and making time for her own calling. So, to the rest of you ladies who are doing the same thing, keep it up. Keep showing the world that we can have it all.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Without a Net.

Friends, today is the first day I've had Internet at my house in an entire WEEK.

....actually it may have been longer, but I was in Litchfield for Memorial Day.

To top it off, I had a horrible time getting Comcast to visit my house and address the problem. I spoke with probably ten Comcast employees, explained the issues with the connection probably ten times or more, and spent WAY too much time on hold, listening to elevator music. When the technician guy finally showed up today around 11 a.m., I have a feeling I was happier to see him than the other way around.

But a week without Internet turned out to be a pretty good thing. Here is how I spent my time:

1. I worked on my memoir. In fact, I churned out some of my best writing yet in the last few days. Here is an excerpt:

What is holy water? I asked my grandmother as a child, wondering why we wet our fingers at the beginning of Mass and blessed ourselves with it, leaving a raindrop-sized circle of water on our foreheads.

When she told me, I mused to myself why we didn't ask the priest to bless the water we drank, cooked with and bathed in - why not have all the water be holy? Why just the dab before Mass?

2. I wrote poems and studied poems. After all, I have a feature in November to prepare for. 

3. I cleaned off my bookcase and took books to Goodwill (the ones that aren't special enough to keep, that is). 

4. I met Mark Sanford. Now, some of you might suspect that this was a waste of my time, but I found it to be quite amusing. 

5. I scouted out different price quotes for fixing the air conditioner in my car. It'll be expensive, any way I slice it. 

6. I led a Piccolo Spoleto poetry walk. 

7. I discovered how to ignore outside noise at McDonald's while I borrowed their wi-fi. 

8. I spent more quality time with Buttercup. 

9. I trained interns. 

10. Most importantly, I learned that I can survive without constant access to all the sites I hold so dear. 

Of course, I missed Eating Gardenias the most. I couldn't wait to get back on and tell everyone about my experience without Internet. Ironic, huh? Such is life in the 21st century. 

Just remember to take time to stop and smell the gardenias. 

Friday, May 24, 2013


Funny story: My car died in the Jimmy John's drive-thru yesterday. I had just ordered a sub sandwich, low fat potato chips and iced tea. I turned the key - and nothing happened. Frantic, I pounded on the glass drive-thru window and told the Jimmy John's guy that I couldn't move my car because I couldn't turn it on. 

"OK," said the dude. "I'll send out a couple guys to help ya."

Imagine how humiliated I was when the sandwich-making crew had to help me push my car to the side of the parking lot, out of the other patrons' ways. I sat in my car, wrinkled my nose at the bag of food (I was much too wigged out to eat) and tried to think about what I should do. Luckily, it was only 11:30 a.m. but still, I had to be back at the office before 1 p.m. to greet my new social media intern on her first day. And I had to move the car. And buy a battery, apparently.

Brian showed up with jumper cables, and, once we started my car up, I bought a battery - which I paid an arm and leg for - and griped about my rotten day while I waited for the installation to be completed.

"Today sucks so far," I groaned, not caring who heard me. "I'm so sick of worrying about money."

But, I made it back to the office well before 1 p.m. and did a stellar job of orienting my social media intern plus the new design intern. And I got to thinking how much worse the car breakdown situation could have been. I mean, I could have broken down someplace far worse than the parking lot of a sub shop with a yummy lunch already in my clutches. I could have been in a bigger hurry and missed my appointments. I could have had bigger problems than just the battery.

I have this friend who sometimes texts encouraging messages around 7 a.m. while I'm brewing coffee. (He gets up roughly two hours before that, so it's easy for him to think of stuff.) Yesterday's message said something like: "Get ready for a wondrous and magical day."

It took me a while to admit that anything about yesterday could be remotely close to that description, but I think I'm fine with it now. After all, it felt kind of like magic, having those sandwich guys nudge my silent car to a safe place so easily, it was like wings had sprouted from her blue doors.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ninth Annual.

Once a year, I get some of my best girl pals together and head to my house in May for a long weekend. This past weekend marked the 9th trip, and every year is special in its own way. 

Our traditions include eating ourselves silly, sipping frozen cocktails on the screened-in porch, playing board games and card games, hitting up the Hot Fish Club on Saturday night, soaking up the rays all day on Litchfield's gorgeous sands and just being together. 

My mother has always said that it's not where you go, but who you are with. Thus, being in my favorite place with my favorite people is double the magic. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Would [insert name of editor here] Do?

There are days when I ask myself this question.

There are days when I have no idea how to handle something and days when I am NOT satisfied with things.

On those days, I tell myself that every editor in the WORLD must go through this.

I imagine that even Roberta Myers sees editions of Elle every now and then that she is not 100% pleased with. That somewhere, in that dense, 500-page-long mountain of feature and fashion beauty, there is something that is driving Roberta crazy.

I also imagine that Roberta (and Anna, and Stefano, and whomever else) get less-than-desirable responses from the public on stories and fashion spreads that they themselves thought were splendid.

This is the truth of being a magazine editor. There is no way around this truth. We cannot please ourselves, nor our readers, at all times. Nor our publishers. Nor our co-editors.

Today, I received feedback from a reader that disheartened me. I took it personally at first, wondering why this person took the time to write something so nasty about something I worked on so dearly.

Then, after a couple of whine-fests with Brian and Bill, (who each told me I was overreacting) I remembered all the times I've read nasty feedback inside reputable, national magazines on the "Letters to the Editor" pages. The editors and publishers are so nonplussed, they print them for shits and giggles.

Meanwhile, I read over the bitching, rub my freshly-glossed lips together in deep thought ...and continue turning pages. What others think has absolutely no bearing on my love for my favorite publication.

Therefore, what others think should have no bearing on my love for the publication I work with each day.

I love work-related epiphanies.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Wow, since May has started I've been engulfed in celebrating all kinds of occasions, from my best friend Alice (and soon, Mandie!) moving back to Charleston, to my roommate Dana's completion of graduate school, to the MOST important item -- I won the Forum Prize for the Poetry Society this year!!!

I received a book of W.H. Auden's poetry and essays (donated and signed just for me by the oldest member of our society, who is 101 this year!) plus some prize money. I feel totally proud of myself. And my poet friends all toasted me and congratulated me.

The celebrations don't stop there. This weekend is our annual Girls' Weekend, when my ladies and I all go to my house in Litchfield and enjoy the most valuable friendships we have. I feel certain this year is going to be fantastic.

If only every month could be this chock-full of happiness. But as Brian loves to remind me, then I wouldn't recognize what it means to be happy.

Woo hoo! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

That "Writer Buzz."

Today I completed a story for the July/August issue of Mount Pleasant Magazine and was so enthusiastic with the results, i printed a copy and read it out loud to my boss. (He liked it.)

Likewise, the other week, I suddenly got inspired while writing a story about Jim Newsome, the president of the South Carolina Ports Authority. I kept insisting to Brian that he needed to read it because it was great.

But a funny thing happened later: It wasn't quite as great as I first thought. Sure, it was still a good story. But that "writer's buzz," which had made me feel like I'd opened the creative portal of my brain and dumped sheer genius onto a page, was over with.

I've talked about inspiration regarding poetry plenty of times and that mysterious high you get when a poem is first written. You know -- the high that makes us want to share the poem before it's been fully edited or prepared for consumption by other readers. But I'm just now noticing that the writer buzz happens with genres other than poetry ...even with slightly boring stories that I write for work.

I asked Brian once if he gets the writer buzz when he finishes a story. He said he doesn't. And, to be clear, I don't always get it either. But when I do, it's the best thing ever. It reminds me of why I got into this business into the first place. It wasn't for the money. (Duh.) It wasn't even for the vanity of seeing my name in print.

It's for that writer buzz.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What Would an Adult Do?

Over the weekend I spent time in Myrtle Beach with two of my oldest, dearest friends and their children. We drank frozen cocktails by the pool and enjoyed each other's company after not having it for a few years - that is, until this obnoxious deejay started playing club music and telling everyone to get up and dance. I happened to raise myself from my beach chair at that moment to collect napkins from the pool bar after Haylee, their almost-six-year-old, spilled strawberry drink everywhere.

"Are you about to get out there and dance?" teased my friend when he saw me standing up.

"No," I replied, with more than a gentle curl of my lip.

"Are you old now?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, without missing a beat.

Then, yesterday I was wasting time on the Internet when I saw that NPR wanted to know "how readers' tastes in music had changed since they aged." Had they simply turned the volume knob, or something more drastic, like changing from psychedelic rock to Kenny G? Now, I know I'm not quite old enough (I don't think) to have changed my taste in tunes yet and I know NPR wasn't talking to my age group. But it's still interesting, especially because my own mother still listens to all the ribcage-rattling rock n roll she can -- and brags her taste hasn't changed at all. Still, the fact that she's noted herself how her taste hasn't changed means most people in her age group do tone it down.

What are the expectations when it comes to adult behavior? I ask myself this quite a bit. I don't have a husband (or even a boyfriend or even a plus-one at the moment) nor do I have children, but i still suspect that people are expected to act a certain way and hold certain tastes after ...30? Would Kevin and Natalie have wrinkled their brows at me if I had ordered a shot of liquor in midday, jumped up on my lounge chair and shaken my ass like I was 19 years old? Probably.

Some changes, you aren't even conscious of. For example, I hated being around small children when I was 18, 19 years old. An old friend I had in college was the mother of a toddler at the time and I was a notoriously terrible, impatient babysitter. Nowadays, I love my friends' children, and they love me back. Is this a result of age? What if I still hated children -- would that be a sign I wasn't maturing properly?

Normally, when I write a blog post, I have some neat little way to tie it up at the end. But this question hasn't been fully answered for me. I wrote in my journal (the private one, on paper) yesterday that "as I get older, my place in the world seems to get smaller and triumphs seem to get smaller because I'm pickier about them."

Perhaps this process of "weeding the garden" to create the adult life we personally want is a lengthier process than I imagined. So far, I know that I won't be making a scene in my swimsuit by the pool. But as for loving a good guitar riff, I'll take my mother's cue and blare it in my car. I'm working on a lot of the other stuff, but that's a good start, right?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Magazine Covers: The Good, the Bad and the Freaking Hideous.

It amuses me to see the comments that a magazine's "fans" write about the cover images when they're unveiled to the public. For example, witness the new Vogue cover for May:

VOGUE May 2013
Of course, some people like it, but most of the people who remarked on this cover image said stuff about how the lipstick is "too dark for the actress' lips" and how "she isn't smiling" and how weird the color scheme is. (I kind of like it, personally.)

As a magazine addict, subscriber and - ta da! - editor, I now understand how much work and stress goes into creating the perfect cover. And, more importantly, how even after that seemingly perfect cover is created and the team members are buzzing about how great it is, you never know what the street cred is going to be.

My own most hated cover of all time was a Marie Claire cover featuring Eva Mendes. I thought it was so horrible that I taped a page from the inside of the magazine over it. Ha. But now, as an editor, I appreciate the idea that someone, somehow, thought it was good enough.

Marie Claire March 2012

And, though I'm not a fan of her music, my favorite cover as of recently is this one from Elle.

Elle March 2013 
As the managing editor of Mount Pleasant Magazine, I get excited when I think my team has pulled together a great cover. I also realize that, even if I don't love the cover on the national magazine that shows up in my mailbox, the blood, sweat and tears of other editors has gone into its creation.

And I salute them.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Anyone? Someone Other Than Google?

This morning I woke up, checked Facebook over coffee and saw that my friend Jim Lundy had posted something like "Richie Havens! What terrible news to wake up to."

Now, I took the Context Clues lessons in elementary school so I at least got enough from this post to realize that ole Richie had probably died. But I also do not know who Richie Havens is. Just as I was getting ready to type "Who's that?" as a comment on Jim's post (and he would have heartily answered me, no doubt) it occurred to me that I could just look it up myself on my little search engine bar, located in the upper right hand of my Internet browser.

It got me thinking about whether it's now considered silly to ask anyone the answer to anything, in this great world of looking things up on Google. Really, what's the point of being in a classroom if the kid can just find out what he or she needs on an iPad? NOT that I am saying this is true (someone needs to assist in comprehension and clarification) but I can see why some people - especially kids - would feel like they don't need to ask a human being anymore.

I've said this before a bunch of times, but I'm so glad I grew up in an old-school house, without a computer. Sure, i might have missed out on playing fun computer games and fast-forwarding my paper writing process, but oh well. Sometimes, the round-about way is better when it comes to learning.

Sure, Google is great for a lot of stuff (finding out whether the cramp in your foot means you're going to die, for example) but nothing replaces the art of human conversation. If I ever end up having kids of my own, I'll strive to get this point across to them, even though I probably won't escape having a home full of technology.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pondering the "Bad Apple" Theory.

I've spent practically all day today hanging out at the bridge run expo for the magazine, encouraging folks who walked by our booth to grab free issues, sign up for free subscriptions and enjoy our product.

Betwixt all my greeting and promoting, my phone died. (Surprise.) But since I carry my phone charger around with me at ALL times, I was prepared -- that is, until I realized how hard it is to find a plug inside the event hall of the Convention Center. I finally decided to hook my phone up in the bathroom. Then, I left it there.

"Where'd you plug your phone in?" inquired Cullen, one of my esteemed freelancers, who was helping me man the booth. When I told him, he was shocked I'd be so careless with my phone. In fact, he made me so paranoid that I went back and got my phone out of the bathroom.

"'Scuse me," I said to a few of the neighboring vendors, who were doling out bite-sized cookies, "but if you saw a phone charging in the restroom, would you steal it?"

"No, I wouldn't steal it," mused one girl thoughtfully. "But I wouldn't leave my phone in a bathroom either."

"So you think there's someone in this building -- i gestured around to the dorky-looking dads toting diaper bags, the moms in ponytails and the kids licking ice cream -- who would steal it?"

They nodded.

I asked a few other vendors, just for good measure. (And, because, as y'all know, I freaking love talking to strangers.) They all said pretty much the same thing.

"So, you don't think there's a chance we're in this building with nothing but good people?" I kept asking.

"No," they would all say. "There's always one bad person."

I find this information both interesting and disappointing. Perhaps, as a culture, we've been faced with too many tragedies to trust giant buildings full of people -- but if that is the case, why would we even be inside the Convention Center? Are our phones more valuable than our lives?

"I'm having quite the philosophical adventure," I told Cullen a while later, when I got back to our booth and explained to him what I'd just learned through the vendor grapevine.

He just shook his head at me. He's used to my antics. But it's like I said to the guy in the booth next to us: Writing is a dangerous profession. 90% of my inspiration comes from people. And you never know how people are going to interact with you.

Most of the time, I'm delighted at the kindness of strangers. Often enough, I suppose, that I'd consider leaving my phone unattended.

* * *

Sunday, March 24, 2013

On Blogging.

Last night I was at a small get-together when one of my friends proclaimed that "blogging is useless."

Of course, he's (mostly) right.

Yes, sure, there are blogs such as The Sartorialist, which are now so large that they're just websites, not  what we think of when we think "blogs." But when it comes to tiny blogs like mine, with everyday thoughts like mine, my friend is right.

Who the eff cares?

Perhaps I've done myself a disservice by not picking a blog "theme," like traveling or food or photography, because, let's face it, simply being Denise isn't a theme.

But, the thing is, it feels like one sometimes.

For instance, yesterday my roomies and I went to Chick Fil A for brunch - and when I say brunch, I mean it. I ordered a chicken biscuit and waffle fries, after the friendly employee told me that they were now serving breakfast AND lunch during those hours on Saturdays.

"That was delicious, and it was just what I wanted," I announced to Genessa in the car, as we drove to pick up her television from a guy she found on Craigslist. "I think I might blog about it."

No one was surprised. My fellow housemates are accustomed to me saying I'm "going to blog about" anything that strikes my weird fancy. And it's not always hipster, trendy, social media-worthy shit.
In fact, it never is.

So, I guess my friend had a point. Writing about my random-ass life on blogspot IS useless, if he means as reading material for him. But as a writing outlet for me, it's perfect.

And I make no apologies for this hodge-podge.

Monday, March 18, 2013

When Opportunity Knocks...or Telephones.

I was sitting at my work desk early this morning when my phone rang. I answered it chirpily, like I always do, wondering if it was Brian on the other end. But it wasn't.

"Hi...This is an odd question, but my son needs help on an English paper for school," said a woman's voice on the other end of the line. "Do you have any ideas about who I should call?"

I sat up in my chair. "Your son needs a tutor?" I asked. "Why did you call Mount Pleasant Magazine if your son needs a tutor?"

"Well, I figured you guys would know someone and he could get help right away," she said. "The paper is due this week."

"You've found your tutor," I announced. We made plans for me to visit her house at 4 p.m.

Damn, I thought. I love it when work just falls into my lap like this! 

It took me a minute to find the address once I found the street. I squinted up at the numerals on the houses, looking inside my email to make sure I had the right place. 

"Are you the magazine editor who's here to help my brother?" asked a little boy who was walking a dog. 

I said that I was. 

He led me inside, where I had one of the easiest adaptations of my life. It felt like I'd known this family forever. The mother, Kristi, is super friendly (plus, we talked about everything from her art - she was painting in the family room - to relationships) and the 6th grade tutee, Mason, is precious. He listened to me explain to him how his paper should be outlined with less squawking than I get from college students. 

"I like to write," he explained sheepishly, as we wrapped up our session. "I just think research papers are sorta boring. But I write poems." 

"Really! You're a poet?" I was surprised. "So am I! We should trade poetry!"

"We should," he agreed. "I would really like that." 

So, as you can probably imagine, I'm completely stoked to go back tomorrow. As you read this blog, I'm trying to figure out which of my poems would make good trading material with an 11-year-old. 

Life's funny. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday: An Overdue Love Note.

Like most people, I've grown up listening to people talk mainly about Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. And don't get me wrong; I enjoy a good weekend as much as the next person.

But I have a confession to make. I don't base my life on the weekends. It's one of the things I love most about being a writer, making my own schedule and not knowing what each day will bring. And while this might be a surprise to some of my readers, those of you who know me already know that my favorite day of the week is Tuesday.

That's right - Tuesday.

I know; it's puzzling. After all, Tuesday is probably the least description-worthy day of the whole week. It's not the weekend, nor Humpday Wednesday, nor Thirsty Thursday. It's just the second workday of the five-day lineup. Nothing special, in other words, to most people, other than the fact that it means Monday is over. (And what is so wrong with Monday anyway?)

I think my affection for Tuesday began in college. I can't remember why, precisely, but I'm tempted to think I had a few good classes (philosophy? literature?) that took place on Tuesdays. Or maybe I crossed paths with a good friend more often on Tuesdays. Whatever the reason, my passion for Tuesday has lasted.

Once, I was buying a slew of new makeup in Sephora and the girl at the register was named Tuesday.

"Tuesday is my favorite day of the week!" I told her, after complimenting her unusual name.

She grinned broadly. "You're the second person today to tell me that, I kid you not," she replied.

What? I thought to myself in amazement. Someone else loves Tuesday? 

And today, while I was tutoring my devoted tutee, I asked her what her favorite day was. She replied Saturday and returned the question. When I told her Tuesday is my favorite, she asked why.

"I suppose I've always loved unsung heroes," I mused. "Plenty of good things happen on good ol' Tuesday, and yet, it's largely ignored. Like Neptune. Does anyone ever talk about NEPTUNE? No. It's always Saturn or Venus or Mars or whatever."

Actually, in college, I had a boyfriend named David who honored Tuesdays. He would throw a mini-party, known as "Tea for Tuesday," each week. Friends came over, drank homemade Long Island iced tea from a pitcher and discussed how the week was faring thus far.

Other fans of this highly-underrated day probably know where I'm coming from when I speak fondly about Tuesday. But if you're the type who pines for Friday afternoon, it's OK. Everyone has their preferences.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Local Flavors.

What a busy weekend! I enjoyed it by engaging in one of my favorite activities - trekking across the state to visit my best friends.

On Saturday I arrived in Columbia around lunchtime, and spent the afternoon with my childhood best friend,  Kristi,  for her baby shower. She's having a girl next month, so the house was filled with bonnets and butterflies. 

After the shower I drove the quick hour-and-a-half to Greenville to visit Alice, my college best friend. (I have different best friends for different life phases.) 

Greenville was quite the adventure. One of the highlights was definitely our meal downtown, which was topped by a conversation with a street poet, trying to sell us his spiritual musings for cash.

The poet, whose name was Ricky Jones, pressed a folded square of notebook paper into Alice's hand after she generously gave him a dollar bill from her purse. We unfolded it and read it later at the bar, where we decided that one dollar was a fair price.

The next afternoon we walked around the lake on the Furman campus (I got quite friendly with a black swan), then hopped into the car and started driving toward the Jones Gap state park, singing along to 90s songs on the satellite radio the whole way. 

The old saying, half the fun is getting there, definitely rings true when I go anywhere with Alice. We made a few pit stops on the way to the park, including a hardware store-cafe in Traveler's Rest, which Alice insisted had the absolute best blueberry pie to be found. Too bad they were out of the pie when we got there. 

Undeterred, we decided to pay a visit to the Tugaloo Junction, a quirky structure off the side of the road with signs that claimed we could buy boiled peanuts and fresh produce. While we didn't find the peanuts or produce (apparently, the Tugaloo Junction is just a place where miscellaneous toys, clothes and utter junk are sold to unassuming mountain folk), we still had fun chatting with the locals.

I told Alice that although I loved our stint in downtown Greenville, eating at the nice restaurant and walking around the city, I was even more inspired by the mountain trail, dotted with horses grazing the hillsides, interesting shacks and questionable produce huts.

"This is the real local flavor of the area," I declared.

The next time I go back to visit, we're definitely ordering that pie ahead of time and doing some more exploring.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friend Fix.

This morning, I read an article (in ELLE) about the "euphoric benefits" of shopping and how they apply to true shop-a-holics, even when no product is purchased.

"Shopping addiction is consistent with gambling, sex, etc .... "It's not the act of getting the product that's so compelling, it's the anticipation."  

I hate to brag, but I knew this already, after my experience last night.

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I gave up shopping for Lent. No sooner had I done that when my best gal, Sarah, asked me to accompany her on a shopping trip to help her pick out a chic vacation wardrobe.

Talk about a moral grapple! Could I really help Sarah, a self-proclaimed non-fashionista, find suitable clothes and accessories without focusing on myself and my own desires?

The answer is yes!

After dinner last night, we hit the outlets and power-shopped for items that wouldn't make Sarah feel "like a soccer mom," a label she was aiming to avoid.  We went into an assortment of stores - from Michael Kors to Rue 21 - and finally ended up with three necklaces, five shirts and a pair of sunglasses, all which had been carefully selected to mix with Sarah's 3 bottoms: white linen pants, dark jeans and a long, striped skirt.

purple tee, floral shades, scarf 

"Are you sure this stuff looks good on me?" Sarah would ask about everything. Each time I convinced her that she was doing the right thing and she ended up in the checkout line, I felt thrilled.

Maybe I could have a side career as a personal shopper!  I thought.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but this has been just as satisfying as shopping for myself!" I said, as we went back to the car afterward with her bags bursting.

Of course, I eyeballed a thing or two during the two hours, but I kept my cool. I was there to help Sarah, after all.

"But doesn't that count as window shopping? Which counts as shopping? Isn't that what chicks do all the time?" demanded Brian earlier that afternoon, when I told him about my mission with Sarah.

"No," I insisted. "This doesn't violate my Lenten sacrifice. I'm helping a friend. I would have never gone shopping otherwise!"

So, there you have it. Sarah offered to bring me along on a shopping trip for herself again if I "got the urge," but I think my duty is done ... for now.

Unless anyone else needs a helper, that is.