Thursday, August 28, 2014

Because I Know the Feeling {A Bit of My Depression Story}

After reading Ann Voskamp's beautiful challenge to the church and because I was saddened that Robin Williams lost his fight, I sat down and let the Spirit move. That was two weeks ago, and I've sat on this for a while and listened for the prompting to post. It came.

I was heavy with the swollen belly of my second baby girl when I got the call. I'd eased myself into the narrow space of a middle school desk only a few minutes after the last bell sounded and that phone on the wall rang. It was nearly nine years ago. Land lines were still common and I was teaching seventh grade language arts and drowning in my own depression as we faced months of financial strain and uncertainty. All the while I was preparing to do this new baby thing before the ink had hardly dried on the first's birth certificate.

But he told me to sit down and so I did, and then my husband gently told me Michael was dead.

There was no way to cushion the blow or sugar coat the news and I'm not even sure if I cried right then. I think my whole body went numb and I know I kept breathing long and hard and deep because he asked me if I was going to be okay or if he should come get me. And I asked what happened and he told me in softest way he could.

Our dear friend had taken his own life after calling his wife from the top of a mountain and telling her goodbye.

Bipolar disorder had ravaged his joy and the man who used to be known for his 1000-watt smile and insatiable zest was put back to the dust a mere three days later.

And I hugged and held his wife and buried my grief in the shoulders of lifelong friends and stayed strong for the new little life growing inside me and didn't scream into my pillow at night even when I felt like the weight of this world would crush my chest.

I didn't say what I thought--that if one of the most godly, Jesus-loving men I knew could lose this fight how could I believe I would even survive a round in the ring?

I stayed choked up quiet and tried to pray harder and there was no one to hold my hand and let me weep who had walked through the fire and come out the other side and I bought the lie that I just wasn't good enough until it broke me into pieces.

Broke me into pieces all over the honey hardwoods of this house when it was still our new house and the paint color that we paid a man so many dollars to slap on the walls came out all wrong.

And I knew then that I would never do anything right or good or better but I kept feeding myself the lie that I would get better and it was just hormones and stress and a thousand other causes.

And no one told me it was okay to take the antidepressant and I didn't even know it was okay to ask and I gulped water when what I needed was air and everyday I drowned a little bit more.

Everyday for a year until the next summer when I was home alone with two toddlers and a lost mind and the idea that maybe I should just lock the door and leave and hope someone else would come along and be a better mother and a better wife.

I don't remember when the decision was made to ask for help. I don't remember if there was advice from my closest friends or my mother or another mom who whispered to me that I could try some medicine and it would be okay. It didn't make me weak. It didn't mean I had no faith. It didn't mean I was doomed to a dose for the rest of my life.

It just meant I needed a life preserver until I could get back to shore.

I'm on the shore now, almost always, but sometimes my toes wander a little too far from that sand and I recognize the crash of waves getting too high and I know when I need to back up, take a break, ask for the physical help of hands that can feed, and clothe, and love as well as I. I know I have a tendency toward depression, likely genetic, as I learn more family history and see more of my own tendencies manifest in those who share my DNA. I know I'm creative and have long tried to make myself fit a box that isn't my shape and as I settle more and more into this skin that the Creator Himself stretched over my soul, I know the warnings and how there are some thorns I will always have no matter how much I may pray for their removal.

I know how to ease the sting though. How to count blessings and beg forgiveness and believe in each new day with no mistakes in it yet. I know how to be proud of the talents I've been given and I'm working on not resenting those that weren't tasked to me.

And I'm treading carefully when the Lord prompts me to share the bits of my story that struggle with depression and anxiety because I know the sensitivity of the topic.  But here's what I know even better--

I sure wish I'd known how to share this with Michael. Because no matter what we think when we reach the pits of despair, there is always someone waiting to pull us out.

For more about how Michael's incredible wife Natalie has lived in the wake of his mental illness and death, visit her author page or pickup a copy of her book, Tears to Joy

Monday, August 25, 2014

In Which I Clean My Dyson and Ponder Being the Temple



Jesus Calling - 365 Day Perpetual Calendar for Kids - Large
We read about it this morning on our Jesus Calling perpetual calendar for kids. How we're the temple, the indwelling of the Spirit, the place where Creator God has chosen to reside.

So today as I'm trying to make a literal sweep of the last few hard days by cleaning my dirty floors and wondering how on earth four little people can wreak such havoc upon such a small space, I'm struck by the realization that even temples get dirty sometimes and need a good housecleaning.

I think the revelation really came when I had to give up on sucking up the dust and crayon bits and dried gummies from under the couch because the vacuum just simply wasn't going to do it anymore. I resigned myself to a chore I hate, a chore that should not even exits, because excuse me, but why in the world is a vacuum not self cleaning?

And I took apart our refurbished Dyson on the hope that even though there's a hole in the hose, if I give it a good cleaning, surely it will continue to function. The thought I just couldn't get past was this--the very appliance that is designed to clean my house gets grimy and dirty and just plain nasty doing that job. Even though I might be left with less grime in my carpet, there's filth inside the very item that did that cleaning. And if I ignore that, eventually I'm left with something that can't perform the job it's intended for.


Lightbulb moment.

I'm full of filth and grime and there's dust clogging up my heart and soul on a regular basis. Yet, I'm claiming to be a place where Christ is. I'm good at cleaning up the outside and making myself presentable to others. I'm good at words that encourage and suppers that feed new mamas and putting my name on the list of volunteers.

I'm good at helping clean up others.


But I'm not keeping it up inside myself. Every now and then I need to be taken apart--just like that Dyson--and given a good rinse. The beautiful comes when I realize that once I'm apart, I need to be put back together to work. To function. To fulfill my calling.

And none of those good deeds or encouraging words are capable of reassembling my parts.

And I'm not self-cleaning.

But there is One who lives inside me. There is One who wants me to be the very best I can be as a home for His love, His grace, His mercy. So He cleanses. He restores.

He puts me back together and He will do so over and over and again and again because we're never capable of helping to clean others without getting a little dirt on ourselves.

Here's a sweet surprise if you're looking for daily encouragement and hope. Now through September 1st, DaySpring has their entire line of Jesus Calling devotionals, calendars, and cards for sale. Just click over here and use the code JCOFF40 and you'll receive a 40% discount off your purchase! Jesus Calling Collection- 40% off with code JCOFF40

Sarah Young - Jesus Calling - (in)courage Exclusive Edition image

Monday, August 18, 2014

That Time We Didn't Grocery Shop for a Month {guest post}

One of my few paying gigs as a writer is the marketing I do for Red Dust Ranch. Each week my family participates in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and receives a paper grocery sack full of fresh vegetables. Lately, that sack hasn't been able to contain all the squash and watermelon that the farm's abundance is blessing us with. It's been a banner farm year, for sure, and when we were hanging out with our Red Dust friends and making barbecue pizza with their pasture-raised pork, I got to hear Sandi and Tim's story. She tells it best, and I hope it inspires your family to appreciate the food that's on your table.

BBQ chicken, potato salad, slaw, squash and zucchini, green beans, pickles. Nearly every thing on this plate came from our CSA one week this summer.
My husband, Tim, and I had tried gardening ourselves for two years. The first year was great. We had a robust garden with lots of veggies that we begged people to take it off of our hands. The second year was awful. We made our plot bigger, we added variety, and we did everything we did the year before. Our garden got flooded out and next thing we knew we had a forest and no veggies.

This year, we decided to try a CSA per the suggestion of my husband’s wonderful coworkers. They led us to Red Dust Ranch and it was the best decision we ever made. Not only do we get veggies weekly for a great price, but we have made some great new friends and are stocking up on frozen veggies for winter. Oh yeah…we didn’t go grocery shopping for a month and a half.

I know what you’re thinking…what about bread, milk, and eggs? It sounds daunting, but in reality it was actually really liberating. Every week we went to get our veggies and we got creative. We had meat in the fridge from Sam’s Club and enough other things to keep us from starving. When we ran out of something, we wrote it on a list and we improvised.

Every morning, I like to eat a cup of Greek yogurt. Well, I eventually ran out and was left with the decision to go to the store or find something else. I found something else. We had a lot of oatmeal and grits that had not been eaten and I am not above a simple toast breakfast. Until we went to the store upon returning from vacation, we ate what was in the house.

The week before our vacation was the hardest. We had run out of just about everything. We had no milk, no eggs, no yogurt, no orange juice, etc. The fridge was bare and our grocery list was massive to say the least. But why should we go to the store if we are days away from leaving the state? So, most breakfasts became the raisin bread that was lost in the back of the freezer, lunches were leftovers of dinner, which usually consisted of rice, a veggie, and a meat. Sometimes there was sauce, sometimes there wasn’t.

But we made it to vacation and then went shopping when we got back. We got enough to be able to go another month or more. This time we MIGHT go back for milk.

What this experience did for us?
  • Made us appreciate all that the Red Dust Ranch CSA is and all that it has done for us in a short time
  •  Made us realize we don’t have to rely so heavily on a store to survive
  •  Forced us to be creative
  • Forced us to eat the often ignored items in the pantry
  • Gave us a clean fridge and pantry to start anew. We realized what we do like eat and what we don’t. So now we make sure not to buy those unnecessary things.
I tell others that joining this CSA has been better than couponing from a money saving stand point. I used to clip coupons and desperately hunt through various websites looking for the best deals. It was incredibly time consuming, it was stressful, and honestly it was a giant pain.

So not only are we eating better, we are eating smarter in every way.

Thank you Red Dust Ranch!


Tim and Sandi Suda live in Demorest, Georgia with their two dogs Mattie and Courtney. The two met at Piedmont College over seven years ago and were married on December 31, 2010. Neither grew up in the north Georgia area, so it's a wonder how a military brat and Atlanta native found each other and settled in a city with a population less than 2,000. Tim is a Technology Specialist for the Banks County School System and Sandi is a Communications Specialist for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

When You're Finally Able to Really Rest {Some Recommendations}


I think every blogger I follow is writing on rest right now. Rest and saying yest to whatever plan God may have up His sleeve for you next.

I'm not going to talk about that right now. Mostly because I haven't really had any rest lately and we're just in a season where it seems that I have to get what I can, when I can, however I can and accept that right now God's plan for me may look like chaos to every one else.


I'm okay with that because I know we're going to work through this busy season and a period of quiet, intentional work is coming.

That being said, we are done (DONE!!!) with The King and I at the community theater. It was great fun and my first experience being in a big musical, but I don't think we will do another summer play any time soon. Or a Christmas play either, for that matter. However, Madelynne was cast for Alice in Wonderland this October, and I'll be directing again in the spring (Thornton Wilder's Our Town--hearkening back to 11th grade literature), so we're not really on a theater break at all. It's fun, though, and I've always seen this as a place where we can serve and use the gifts God has given us in unique ways.


The advantage to being part of the ensemble in a big show is that I got lots of down time backstage. So I took along my ipad and finally got around to reading some of the great ebooks I purchased through the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle last year. Oh my word--so much goodness! (And so much fluff, too. Honestly, some of those books made me wonder why I haven't taken the plunge and written an ebook yet because they were 30 simple pages of tips I already know. But the bundle was still worth it because the good ones were so, so good.)


My favorite backstage reads are hopefully going to help me give my days some more structure AND flexibility. If you're looking for a great book on intentional motherhood, I'm recommending Steady Days for Jamie's simple, practical approach to mothering. Yes, there's emphasis on "routine" which is something I've always struggled with because I want to be that spontaneous, fun mom who isn't bogged down by what has to be done between certain chunks of time, but let's be honest. A routine is something we all have--even when we say we don't. I like that I can take some of her ideas and suggestions and maximize them for my family and my needs. Plus, I'm getting focused on writing as an income source and in order to do that, I have to carve out intentional time. Another plus for having a steady day with a simple routine that we can all live with. You can read more about this over at Steady Mom.


I also delved into some crazy cooking goodness with Kitchen Stewardship. Her book Healthy Lunches: Sandwich Free Secrets to Packing a Real Food Lunch has inspired me to think outside the standard ham&mayo combo that my kids eat almost everyday we pack lunch (they get to choose school lunch once a week, it's a cost effective, nutrition concern, keep the peace decision). I enjoyed the book so much that last Saturday when I spent the night in the hospital with my grandmother, I stayed up way too late reading recipes and interesting perspectives on real food. We're not totally on the bandwagon (this week there was a meltdown when I tried to suggest something other than Aunt Jemima syrup on the waffles), but I do think we already make pretty good decisions involving what we eat around here. But we could always do better, and with my sister's and nephew's recent diagnosis of allergies and ulcerative colitis, I'm wanting to up my repertoire of foods I can serve when they're here so Ash doesn't have to worry about dairy-egg-soy-gluten making them sick. If you're interested in any of Katie's great books, I encourage you to check them out here and visit her site. Today she's giving away a $100 lunch package to make lunch packing fun on even the most hectic of mornings.


Finally, as our first week of school post-play is winding down, I'm trying to re-establish my Sacred Hour. It's been challenging with Gus and Amelia crawling into bed with us the past few nights at 4 a.m. (not sure if this new room situation is working or not), but I'm committed to getting back in the Word. I know now that I am never going to reach some great spiritual plateu and get to consider myself a graduate of understanding the great grace that is Christ, but I also believe fully that the more time I spend in the Word God has given us, the better I will come to know Him and have peace with things I just cannot understand. One of my favorite devotionals right now (and what I'm using until Good Morning Girls kicks off) is the Jesus Calling devotional app. If you have not read any of Jesus Calling I highly recommend the app or this beautiful hard copy from DaySpring. And if you follow me on twitter, you might notice that I'm trying to regularly post a line or two that speaks to me each day.
It's such a simple little book with enormous capability to point me back to the living Word of God. Which is where I always find my best rest. Oh, and by the way, stop back Monday for a link to all of the Jesus Calling collection at DaySpring and a great coupon code!


So tell me--what are some of your recommendations for establishing routines, packing school lunch, and having a quiet time? I'd love to read about what works for you in the comments below. Or you can find me on Facebook and join the conversation there!

Coming Next Week:
A Trip to LeConte Lodge
One Family's Story of How They Didn't Grocery Shop for a Month
A Reflection on Depression

Pretty sure it's impossible to keep up with my sporadic posting? You can always subscribe via email. Put your address in that little box under my picture. Easy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

When It's Just Fine to be Finished {five minute friday}

On Fridays the writers gather at Lisa Jo's. We write in five minute increments like ones scared braved. We're not supposed to edit or backtrack or over think, though everyone confesses to that at least once and that's why there's grace for even the most ordinary of writing tasks.

Except on Fridays five minute ordinary becomes extraordinary. Join us? Link up here and give us your five minutes on

Finish

He says it in a sweet little voice that bears no trace of sarcasm or disrespect. In answer to everything I say.

"It's time to take a bath now, Gus."
"We're going outside to pick tomatoes."
"Do you want to go see the goats?"

Fine.


Fine, he says with his two-year old lisp and blond curls bobbing. I know he says it because he hears me sigh it in exasperation and his sisters reply it when they're tired of being asked.

I know it has so many meanings. But sometimes that little four letter word just means what it is:
Fine.

It's fine. It's okay. It's all right. Don't worry about it. Let it go. Pass it on. Breathe deep.

It's fine to be finished.


Lisa-Jo is passing the baton. Four years of wild five minute writing in flash mobs and dark bedrooms and late nights that have gradually gotten earlier because let's face it--all us mamas are tired by 10 p.m. on Thursday, and she knows it's time to pass it on.

She's mentored my writing from afar since the day a friend forwarded me that old Gypsy Mama page and I thought who is this woman who knows the words my heart is whispering and weeping even though we've never met?

She told me in a crowded room at a conference last fall that I would know when the time was right to write that book that God has laid on my heart and I'm laying back down at His feet.

She was right.

And that time came before I was really read to wrap my mind around it and for months I've been trying to do it all.

But I think I'm finished too.


I think it's time I admit that it's fine if the blog doesn't get the best of me and instead that part goes to my children and the legacy of words I truly hope to leave.

It's fine to let what was once the best thing become something I used to do, for the sake of doing what I'm meant to do at this time, this season, this moment.

It's just fine to be finished with one season so another can come.


I'm not shutting this down....just taking a break. I'll be posting sporadically and not worrying about being faithful for numbers or platforms or expectations. I have long believed my best writing comes from when my soul is prompted and I need an alter to remember. This past spring I got caught up in trying to promote and that really didn't work well for me or sit well with my heart for this space. This is the place that has given me the courage to try for new and bigger dreams and I want to honor it with words that are worthy. But mostly, I need to live and focus on those who share my home and life and give breathe to every word I write. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why I Write (a Blog Hop)


 One of the great things about the internet is how this network of satellites and landlines brings people together. I love finding other women who understand what it means to be a writer, a creative, and a busy mama with way too many projects half-finished on the shelf. But it's a really busy place too, and with so many people making so much noise, I sometimes struggle with wondering what I have to bring to the table. So when Christie asked if she could include me in this blog hop for writers to share their whys and wheres, I was honored that she had found my little space of rambling an encouragement despite all my shortcomings.

Christie and I met in real life, actually, at the incredible Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference. (A conference I wouldn't have really known about had it not been for my real life friend Amy, who has been my cheerleader in all these endeavors for the past several months.) We were both taking a course in freelancing and discovered we had both been a part of the (in)courage writer's group. She's a beautiful person, inside and out, who uses her blog At the Well to reflect on the intersections of faith and motherhood while reminding us as women what it means to really sit at the well of living water with Jesus.

I love how she answered these questions and admits that the process isn't always easy but when God has given us words, we are powerless to ignore them. Words are a legacy we are leaving to the next generation of the faithful. I'm stealing this reminder from her blog:

You show that you are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  2 Cor. 3:3 (NIV)

So why do I pack lunches and pay babysitters and hide in corner booths of restaurants with free Wi-fi? Because when I don't, I'm not being His letter. I'm not preaching the gospel I know.

So here are my thoughts on the questions of why I do this writer thing now.


What am I writing or working on now?
So many things....likely too many. But as much as I'd like to dedicate myself to one project whole-heartedly, that just doesn't seem to be my nature. I'm getting better about prioritizing and turning down projects that I don't need, but I'm still not as focused as I should be. The good news is, I believe God is helping me narrow my overflow of ideas into the places He wants me to be. So right now I'm working on three major writing projects but I've managed to narrow each one to suit my style and build off one another.

First, I'm in the editing/finishing stages of my first novel. It's been a work in process for a looooonnnngggg time, but I can see the end and I can see how God has grown me and groomed me to tell this story. It's not the same story I would have told five years ago when I first sketched out some weak pages, but as I've grown as a writer, it's grown to be the story that it's supposed to be. I'm hoping to pitch it officially this fall.

Secondly, I'm freelancing. I've had some success recently with Splickety Magazine, Thriving Family, and Georgia Magazine published one of my favorite stories back in May. For Splickety I'm writing my first short stories and guest blogging about writing. Thriving Family lets me use my parenting "expertise" and I'm working on some articles for Georgia Magazine and similar publications that let me talk about one of my favorite topis: living local. I'm thrilled to finally be seeing my words in tangible print and that others are giving credibility to my work. I know it's not all about that, but honestly, bills have to be paid. Writer's conferences aren't free :)

Finally, I'm blogging. It's not as regular as it once was, but that's okay. Something I learned at Allume was that it's far more important to have quality than quantity. So that's what I'm focusing on now. Blogging is my outlet, it's my publishing without worrying about fitting a genre or a category, and it's my connection to those I love to share my life with.

How does my work differ from others of my genre?

This is a tough one for me. As a "mommy blogger" I don't feel that different from others. But as I'm working to enhance my writer's voice, I think I'm finding what does set me apart. Ann Voskamp posted recently about a quote that inspires her "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." I think that's really where my voice is. I didn't realize how much of the slow life I was missing until I quit my full-time outside the home job as a teacher to stay home and just be a wife and a mom. And I love that "just". There's value and admirality in this role and it's taught me to be a better writer because I've become hyper aware of my children and how quickly this stage of life is passing us by. I don't want to miss a thing. I want to revel and delight and enjoy. Then I want to tell you all about how there is grace and amazement and peace in growing gardens and waterfall hikes and popsicles on the porch everyday. I'm seeing this in my fiction writing too. For me, the stories I write aren't about the big changes people make. They're about all the little things we wake up to on a daily basis but are at risk of never appreciating. My stories are all about those moments when we realize what it means to really breathe in grace.

And wow, giving words to this makes me feel like I'm finding my focus all over again.


Why do I write what I do?

Sarah Mae talked about "making alters" at Allume. She was referencing how the Israelites would make actual alters when God had done something incredible they didn't want to have the next generation forget. Then ever since she said that, I've heard that phrase over and over in various capacities. And it's helped me give a name to why I blog--it's how I don't forget what these hardest and most glorious moments of motherhood were like. Fiction writing is like that too--there's a handful of stories in this world and we tell them over and over again and again in new and exciting ways because these themes of overcoming failure and desperation and experiencing grief and love are tales we need to never forget. My freelance work is all about that notion of being astonished when I really pay attention. I am beyond blessed to live where I do and have the opportunity to share it with others. I want families to come away from their screens and their booths at McDonald's and know how easy it is to go on a picnic and shop a farmer's market. This world is not scary. It's beautiful and God gave it to us for our delight and our sustenance. I hope when I share stories of how I camp or hike or cook with my kids, that others don't feel put down. Rather, I want them to feel empowered. I hope other moms say to themselves, "Well, if she did that, then so can I."

How does my writing process work?

Yeah....I don't know. All I know is I look for pockets of time I can steal and then I write. I like to get up early, but I have to be up super early to beat my kids out of bed. So during the school year, I'm aiming for 5 a.m. That's when I do my best writing on the novel because I can almost always get a solid uninterrupted hour. Then I just try to find time for all the rest. Naptime sometimes works. I almost never write at night (except for Five Minute Friday) because I'm usually completely drained by 9 p.m. I make myself prioritize. If there's a deadline for a publication I want to submit to, I work on that first. If I haven't blogged in a few days, and I have a story I want to tell, I get that out of the way and I'm always better for it. I like these short pieces for freelance and blogging because I can almost always finish it and feel a sense of accomplishment. Short stories are good for that feeling too. If I get a story idea, I jot it down and if the muse is really working, I move that to the top of the list. (I wrote this story in two hours. It was just flowing.) I'm trying to build a cache of stories I can submit. This probably sounds a little crazy,  but if I'm working on something I believe the Lord has given me, I can usually work at lightening speed. It's a mom thing too. I know I only have a certain amount of time, so I have to guard it carefully. I'm doing this post today while my kids are at a Mother's Morning Out program and I'm already 8 minutes over the allotted time I gave myself to finish this project!  But that's okay because I'm really learning about myself right now and that's been completely worthwhile.

I'm grateful and blessed to be included in a community of writers who understand all that crazy rambling. The women I'm passing this hop onto are recent discoveries, but I love how I can visit their blogs and feel their heart.

Amy at The Little Farm Diary is a new real life friend. We connected at the community theater and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to get to know her (and her sweet daughter) better over the next few weeks as we perform. You absolutely want to click over to her page and check out her sweet farmhouse style.

Andrea over at 7-7-at-7 is a friend from my (in)courage group and I love her honesty about being a "newbie" to publication. It's hard to into this industry and you need a thick skin. Having friends who have experienced these ups and downs is a blessing. She's a creative writer and a fabulous photographer.

Erin is who I'm sending #fmfpartysnailmail to this week! The coolest thing was when I got my list and her name was right above mine--just like her hometown. We're getting together for lunch someday soon and I can't wait. She has a beautiful blog and I love popping over and reading about her life as a newlywed...ah, those days from twelve years ago that I so didn't appreciate.

So who are some of your favorite writers or bloggers? Why do you carve out time to be creative? I'd love to know and share.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why That South Carolina Low Country is Home Too




I like to write about living local. So much so that it was my 31 Days series this past fall. (Anyone already gearing up for that? Yeah, me neither.) I write about places to go and eat and how to support local small businesses because it's a topic my husband and I are passionate about. Also, I just really love to get out of the house and explore. Keeps my kids from fighting over electronic devices.

So I write a lot about living local here in northeast Georgia even though I'm technically a transplant to this place. I've been thinking a lot about that lately. How something about a place will continue to shape our character and decisions long after we've left it. How you can belong to a place in zipcode and phone record but never really belong, never really feel a part of the intricate web of history and geneology that so pervades small southern towns.

I'm glad I live here, belong here, am raising my family here. My blood connection to these woods and blue ridges lies with my grandfather who loved a campfire and hot coffee with almost the same intensity that he loved my grandmother. But even so, sixty-plus years of fall camping trips at the secret Walnut Tree isn't the same as having been born into this place and these people. I get the history but not the lineage.


Then, after a six year hiatus, my family heads back down the coast to sleepy Edisto Island on the edge of the South Carolina low country. I grew up riding the waves and scraping the shells out of my swimsuit on this beach that's like a portal to another time. My mother grew up coming here after the tobacco had been hung to dry in the barns and school was near on the horizon. I'm writing a novel that's set on these shores and dirt roads hung with Spanish moss. So it's more than just a vacation destination. It's as much home as the Granite Capitol that raised me and the mountains that hold me now.




But I didn't realize that until I'd been gone and returned to be saddened by the changes and heartened by all that stayed the same. We rode bikes in the evening twilight and bashed our knees in the high tide waves. We hunted snail shells and sharks' teeth and the elusive sand dollar. We set up canopies and played all day.






We bought a book that could have been written about my family.

The Pink House, by Kate Salley Palmer
We shared this favorite place with friends and popsicles and Independence Day.



One day I rode my bike down Pointe Street in search of two older beach cottages the local historian said would help me visualize the Edisto of my mother's childhood. There was a woman tending tomatoes and flowers in the raised beds of a community garden in someone's front yard, and I stopped to ask her a few questions about living here.

Tivoli Cottage, Edisto Beach
"Where you from, honey?" was her iconic greeting.

I told her where we live and added that I'd grown up coming here and my grandparents had been from nearby Walterboro.

"Oh," she said with an easy wave of her hand. "You're local then."


Local indeed. And grateful for it.