Low Country Getaway

In my next life, I’m thinking of becoming a travel writer or something. I love visiting new places and telling other people about it, not in a bragging sort of way but in an informative way. I want everyone to experience the same wonders that I do and avoid some of the pitfalls. In this blog, I’m going to tell you the best place to visit for a sunset and the hotel to avoid if you’re all about “free” continental breakfasts.

Last year we celebrated our 10th anniversary with a weekend in the Big Apple, and although we LOVED it, this year we wanted to stay a little closer to home. Trying to decide between the coast of SC and the mountains of GA was a difficult decision, and the #1 deciding factor was the price of gas. Gee whiz! It still cost a small fortune to do the little bit of traveling that we did, but it was worth every gallon.

We left Myrtle Beach and headed to McClellanville for the Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet. I’ve always had a hankering to visit that historic site, and reading about the events of the weekend in Southern Living gave me just the impetus I needed. We finally found a place to park, and as we were wondering about the shortest route to the water, a man who was directing traffic pointed to a short bridge and told us to follow the yellow brick road and that we’d end up in Kansas. Loved that. I saw it as a harbinger of good things to follow.

I wasn’t disappointed. Right away we fell in love with the little town beside the sea. The trees, the water, the houses, and the people all combined to make the experience a sweet and memorable one.  We particularly liked the booths set up under the trees, and we ended up buying a couple of cool t-shirts as souvenirs. Since jewelry is one of the traditional gifts for the 11th anniversary, my hubby bought me a beautiful bracelet from a woman selling creations of recycled sea glass. I’m wearing it today; it shimmers like the ocean.

Just about everything in life has good and bad, an upside and a downside, and the festival was no exception. The blessing of the fleet was nice, but the microphone wasn’t working, and we couldn’t hear anything that the three speakers said. It was kind of funny because no one told them. Everyone was too mannerly, including us. There seemed to be a reverence in the scene that prohibited anyone from yelling at the speakers who were standing at the end of a long dock. So basically we watched them and the numerous ships that went by.

The food was yummy, but skimpy. Sorry but it’s true. I know they were probably making money for the town, but festival-goers will be more inclined to come back if the food portions are generous. One of the highlights of the afternoon was listening to the band and watching people dance.  I’d expound on this, but it’s time to move on to the next leg of the journey.Suffice it to say that the various dancers reminded me that life is to be relished and LIVED.

We left McClellanville and, following the directions of the GPS, rode through parts of the Francis Marion Forest. At some point, we ended up on 526 and later the Savannah Hwy. The farther south we rode, the more obvious the low country foliage and “feel” became.

I just realized that this blog is getting far too lengthy so you’ll have to stay tuned to read about the hotel without the continental breakfast and the best place to view a fiery orange sunset.I’ll even recommend a lighthouse perfect for climbing.

Our Country

You have to love this picture. I snapped it at Ellis Island last year and have it tacked on the bulletin board in my office as a reminder that we all came from somewhere else. This great country is relatively new compared to many (say France or England), and we have variety unparalleled in the rest of the world.  When I first saw this picture, I searched all of the faces hoping to find ME. Who are my people? What is my heritage?

My recent trip to New York City reminded me once again of just what a WASP I am. That’s fine when I’m living in my little neck of the woods in South Carolina, but when I venture out just a bit, I see that I could easily become a minority. Truly, I heard more people speaking French, Spanish, Chinese, and German than English while in New York, and yet I hear people all around me frequently saying that they wish “foreigners” would go back where they belong (where that might be I’m not sure).

Don’t these intolerant folks realize that their ancestors came from elsewhere else and that they were once foreigners?? What about you? Did your ancestors come over on the Mayflower? And hey, even if they did, they weren’t the first ones in North America. Weren’t there some Indians (er, Native Americans) already here? Aren’t you glad they didn’t send your “people” back across the big water? I am.

And I’m also glad that so many other nationalities have joined to make this great land even greater…and it’s not just because of tacos and spaghetti either. It’s  because of everything related to culture, including art, music, traditions, skills, religions, languages, and so forth.  When at Ellis Island last May, I saw a short play featuring the experience of Bela Legosi upon his arrival in America. Then there are  Arnold Schwarzneggaer, Levi Strauss, Peter Jennings, Deepak Chopra, and Mariah Carey…all immigrants who enriched our society.

My husband must have commented a dozen times or more about how many different shapes, sizes, noses, skin color, and languages we encountered. It was mind boggling to see and hear the tremendous diversity and to realize once again that this is OUR land, not just YOURS and MINE.

As I walked away from the above picture and looked back, this is what I saw, the flip side of the same image(s). And just so you know, the little boy walking in front of the faces appeared to be from India. He belongs here just as much as you and I do.

Outbursts and Hissy-fits

Okay, I wasn’t going to jump into the fray, the one about the sense of growing incivility in the United States, but a recent comment from a blogging buddy in Utah has pushed me in. The eyes of the nation are upon us here in South Carolina…and not for the reasons we’d like. Lately we’ve had instances of our elected officials saying and doing embarrassing things. Is it a Southern thing? Is the South racist? That’s what Burl in Utah says many of his acquaintances think.

Where to start? Let’ start at the top with our governor. Not only does he leave the state to fly to South America to visit with his mistress, but he does so without telling anyone where he’s going, not even Jenny. No one. After returning from his trip south, the governor held a press conference in which he rambled pathetically about his woes. Soul mate was used to describe this mysterious Venezuelan beauty, and the lovesick governor said that he was trying to fall back in love with his wife. Huh?  Doesn’t he know when to stop talking? I actually thought that maybe we as a state were getting beyond this scandal until watching a short segment on Jay Leno this week in which he and Seinfeld held an entertaining dialogue about Sanford’s behavior.

Fast forward to last week when Joe Wilson yelled, “You lie!” to the President of the United States before both houses of Congress, before the millions of viewers tuned in to hear Obama’s remarks. Appalled at Wilson’s lack of civility, I thought, “Yet another blow to the Palmetto state’s image.” Earlier this week I read an update on the man who threw shoes at President bush. No one said merely, “Tsk tsk.” No. He served prison time in his own country for insulting the leader of another country.  According to him, punishment was painful and included electric shock.

Back to Burl’s question about whether the outburst was at least partially motivated by racism. I don’t know. I do know that perhaps an Ivy League white person could be resentful of a black man who is extremely intelligent, erudite, smooth, unruffled, sophisticated, and suave.  In fact, as I recall the event, Obama’s cool demeanor was quite a contrast to Wilson’s hot one.

Moving along, I might as well mention Serena Williams and Kanye West.  While both of them acted in childish ways, I’m somehow more inclined to overlook Serena’s explosion, probably because it wasn’t typical of her.  She was having a bad day, and that’s putting it mildly.  Her behavior was unbecoming and as my mother would have pronounced, “uncalled for.” As for Kanye, his deliberate interruption of Taylor Swift’s speech was more than uncalled for. It was extremely rude and bordering on unconscionable.

So at the end of the rambling post, here’s what I think. I think America is the best country in the world to live and work and play and raise children. I also think we’ve forgotten our manners and slipped into serious incivility. We’re so much into freedom of speech and individual rights that we’ve forgotten the golden rule…and the silver one too (don’t do unto others what you wouldn’t want done unto you).

All of the above have apologized for their outbursts, hissy-fits, and behavior. Let’s learn from that and all try to be a little kinder, a little more civil…and to rein in our tempers. Please.

Weekend Getaway to Atlanta

Before yesterday, I’d never tasted citrus rice before. Ummm. It was delicious, especially the small chunks of pineapple. On our way back from Atlanta, some friends and I stopped in Madison, GA for lunch and a bit of antique browsing. We ate at the Chop House, a wonderful diner with sage green walls and huge windows overlooking the tree-lined streets. We opted to sit outside on the Chop House Patio where the ambience was even better. Except for the occasional cigarette smoke wafting over from a nearby table, it was what Van Morrison would call fantabulous. The food, the conversation, the temperature, the gentle breeze, our fellow diners, our server, the white china rimmed in black, a small lizard, and the sight of the surrounding trees beginning to change colors all combined to make it memorable. To add the icing on the cake, Nancy regaled us with hilarious tales of her father during her dating years. It’s always good to laugh and talk with friends.

To backtrack a bit, the four of us went to New York together in May and seemed to get along well (except for that business about leaving me at the Brooklyn Bridge, that is). Just kidding, Lisa.  Anyway, with one trip behind us, we knew that we traveled well together and that we liked many of the same things. Hence, when I learned that Chicago was playing in Atlanta at the fabulous Fox Theatre, I asked it they’d be interested, and they said YES. We asked some other people if they’d like to accompany us, but they all declined. Maybe next time.

 We left Nancy’s around 10:00 a.m. Friday morning, and after a couple of stops along the way, we finally arrived in Atlanta six hours later. Our husbands and families probably won’t be too surprised to learn that we talked pretty much nonstop. As a consequence, we came up with solutions to the nation’s healthcare problems and education issues. We also discussed the economy, SC’s recent embarrassments, and the lack of civility that surrounds and astounds us.  We also talked about more down-to-earth and personal topics, but I’ll never tell. Suffice it to say that we all agree on the importance of family, past and present, and relationships.

Before the play on Friday night, we ate at an Italian restaurant near the theatre where the food was good, but the atmosphere was anything but. The acoustics were horrific, and finally the four of us gave up trying to have any semblance of a conversation. After dinner, we walked down the block to the fabulous Fox where we were greeted by a tall, courtly African American man whose hospitality and Southern charm were contagious. Once inside, we admired the atmosphere and décor, especially the star studded ceiling.

I think I speak for the four of us when I say that the production of Chicago was well worth the price of the ticket. The lead roles played by Velma and Roxie were especially riveting. These women are so talented! While we thought that Jerry Springer did an okay job of playing Billy Flynn, we were disappointed that he didn’t dance more. He just seemed to lack the razzle dazzle of Richard Gere who played that part in the movie version.  The only “fly in the ointment” that evening was the price of souvenirs. I really really really wanted a tee-shirt that said “Not guilty,” but $35 put it out of my price range.

After the musical, we went back to the Georgian Terrace where we had reservations. It’s a lovely hotel with lots of good feng shui, and I especially liked the marble floors and the sound of mellow, jazzy music in the background. Before retiring to our room, we sauntered through the restaurant that had both inside and outside seating. 

Saturday morning, Nancy visited with her son, and Paul and Amanda picked up Lisa, Martha, and me, and we breakfasted together at the Flying Biscuit.   Since I got to break bread with two of the people I love most in the world, this event was especially sweet for me. Our round table was beside an open window (literally no pane) and was painted with stars. Stars and flying biscuits adorned the walls of this unique eatery as well. As we dined, we were treated to close up views of walkers, joggers, and dozens of dogs. It was nice to be in midtown Atlanta with its teeming life and variety. If you ever make it to the Flying Biscuit, be sure to sample the cranberry apple butter. Amanda, Martha, and I highly recommend it. Breakfast complete, Paul drove us to see the Margaret Mitchell house. Since Martha teaches literature and Lisa teaches history, seeing it was a fitting way to end our short but exciting trip to the big City. 

On the road again, our conversation resumed. As mentioned above, we did a lot of talking about our families, especially those ancestors who have influenced us so much. At this stage of my life, I LOVE that stuff, the links from the past to the present and the consideration of  how those links will affect the future. I’d write more about it, but it’s time to do some serious D2L work and some preparation for tomorrow.

Website Help

Last year I went to a SC Writer’s Workshop in Myrtle Beach, and one of the things I learned is the value of self-promotion. I’m not a forward person so this was/is hard for me, yet I realized that if I ever wanted to get my work “out there,” I needed to do a little something to give it a nudge. So I came home and developed a website and have been playing around with it ever since. In On Writing, Stephen King says you need a First Reader, and in my case, I had several of them. Jeanita, however, offered the best food for thought when she asked, “What are you trying to do with it? I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do when I read it.”

Ah, eye opener. Thanks Jeanita. What I want to do is to make my transition into retirement a little easier, a little less scary. I’m using the next couple of years to ease into it so that on DAY ONE, I don’t wake up feeling purposeless. 

That said, the major purpose of the website is to sell some books, and as a means of doing so, I’m willing to meet with various groups to discuss principles in the book. For those not interested in reading about the spiritual musings of a missionary mom, I’d be happy to meet with community, church, or other interest groups to discuss topics like health, goal setting, improving mental health, overcoming depression, leading a more effective life, finding happiness and just about any other psychological topic. I’m about maxed out on the neural impulse though. Just so you’ll know.

Another reason for the website is to give my other writing projects a preliminary workout. Right now, for instance, I have a couple of book ideas and am interested in stories, anecdotes, illustrations, and other types of contributions from you. At the present, I have a contest going on about LOVE that ends on February 28. There’s a prize for the winner whose entry will be featured on the website and in the forthcoming book, The Spell Was Cast.

So please check it out at www.jaynebowers.com and give me some feedback at bowersj55@hotmail.com or bowers.jayne@yahoo.com.  What do I need to do to make it more user friendly? What should I do to make the purpose more clear? If you have any suggestions to help improve  improve the look of the site, please send them along to one of the email addresses. And be kind; use some tact. Like everyone else, I’m tender on the inside.

And please, please, please enter the contest.

Please Governor Sanford

I feel like a fish out of water. Only blogging a couple of times in the past three weeks has left me wondering where to start and what to say. The end of November and the entire month of December were incredibly busy weeks, and I have so much “material” that I’m having a bit of a dilemma deciding where to start. Hmm. Think I’ll start with today and work backwards.

Today, the primary thing on my mind is Governor Sanford’s decision not to borrow the money needed to provide benefits for the 77,000 laid-off south Carolinians. The money is there, and the feds are willing and ready to lend it, but the governor says NO WAY until the SC Employment commission agrees to provide him with information about how it administers benefits and then submit to a review by the Legislative Audit Council.

There’s nothing I can say here that hasn’t already been said by those far more eloquent than I. Check out today’s The State and read the editorial on page A6. Yes, I know that there are those who misuse funds and those who are able-bodied who do not work.  Still, what I keep thinking about is how easy it is to “play chicken” with unemployed South Carolinians when you live in the big house on the hill and NEVER have to worry about paying the mortgage, keeping the electricity on, buying groceries, taking your child to a doctor, putting gas in your car, and so forth.  Neither, in fact, do the legislators; even after these “esteemed” individuals leave Columbia, they’ll continue receiving stipends, most of them more grand than the average working Joe or Jane.

Please, Governor Sanford, request the money. A cold, hungry, sick child needs milk and medicine.