Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hot Water

When you take 60 campsites and only 1 shower for all the women you are asking for chaos at best and can only hope to avoid homicide. One more proof that God is a man.

Friday, August 29, 2014

AWOL on the Parkway

Given we were pitching a tent this morning at 2 am this morning, things for the holiday weekend have gotten off to a rocky start. I was the proverbial "Unhappy Camper". You most likely will not hear from me until Monday. I hope that there will good tales to tell. So far the jury is out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Calling it a Day

That's all folks! This last book is my swan song. 

Writing it was not the issue. Rewriting, correcting, and editing were not the issues - thanks to an editor and friends who generously gave their time to assist. It just became a fussy two year old who did not want to go to bed.

When you publish books (self publish) you use templates so that your manuscript is ready for publication once it is sent in. There are separate ones for eBooks and paperbacks. Naturally Amazon has a format for their books so they cannot be copied and most other sources use another format. Once your have your "book" ready, putting it into the template is generally not difficult.

I work with the ebook first because it is the easiest and the fastest to get out. eBooks have no page numbers, headers, or footers - just the text with the chapters. With Amazon once you send it to them, they run it through their "magic reviewer" and it spits it out with a notice of any spelling and/or grammatical errors that need to be corrected. (ie the word "Geechee" is not recognized). You make those changes and off she goes. In 12-24 hours you book is live and in color listed on Amazon. Any corrections you want to make after that can be made and the corrected copy will be available withing 12 hours (usually).

The paperback is a little more complicated. The format has page number, headers, footers, and the pagination that have to be set so that the dedication falls on the correct page, each chapter begins on the correct page, etc. Of course, unlike the ebook that simply has a jpg of the cover, the paperback has to have a formatted cover, front and back.

That "interior" or draft is sent in for review. In 24 hours it is sent back with any comments about grammatical and/or formatting errors that need  to be corrected. Those are made and it is refiled. After this round robin, it is finally accepted and it is online and available at Amazon within 24 hours.

Everything was going swimmingly until I awoke one night in a cold sweat and remembered that one name had not been changed to protect the innocent. I immediately corrected the ebook and resubmitted it. Only so many copies had gone out with that "glitch". 

I got the first review of the paperback yesterday saying all the headers and footers were incorrect. In looking back over it, I had to figure out some codes in Word that Microsoft hid (perhaps in fear the KGB may find them). After an hour or two of frustration, those were corrected, I reviewed the draft and resubmitted it.

This morning I received the "final" draft for my review before it was published. I read through it. For some reason the word spacing on many pages was wrong. So I once again went through the draft, line by line, checking the spacing to see what extra spaces (that one cannot see with the naked eye) were there and what lines were not justified. I finished that and sent it off.

When it comes back for the final "final" review - it will go out for good. This is more than I can handle. If I were writing bestsellers that would allow me to lounge and eat bon bons all day, then it would be worth it. Whatever benefit comes from this endeavor it never remotely equals the time, sweat, and effort that goes into it. But years ago I said I was going to write a book. Now I have. Check that one off the great list list of life.

Now on to the next item: dinner with Liam Neeson.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A "Miss" Margaret Story

I was thinking the other day about some of the stories "Miss" Margaret had told. I was privileged to be invited for lunch several times at "The Big House" as the family referred to Willbrook, the home, she and the Senator lived in for so many years and reared their children.

This one particular day, she had invited the Judge's office over. She tried to have all the new attorneys for lunch at least once a year. As always the dining room table was set with her fine china on her linen table cloth with her sterling silver flatware. There were candles in the candelabras in the center of the table. This must have been in the late fall or early winter because she also had a tray of lovely pink and white camellias from her yard as the center piece.

As we were being seated, we noticed that in addition to the crystal tea goblets at everyone's place there was also a wine goblet filled with a pink rose wine. Given this was noon on a work day in the middle of the week, Miss Margaret had given up drinking years ago, and rose wine would not be what she would serve if she was serving wine, the Judge was curious. So she inquired, "Why the wine?"

"Miss" Margaret just smiled, "Well, the flowers were pink and the plates I was using were pink and I thought  needed something in the glasses, so I just used a bottle of rose wine I had in the kitchen." That was so typical of her. Ann, her daughter, told a similar story in her eulogy, except in her case it was pink lemonade. Obviously this was not a one time occurrence.

As we finished the meal, the plates had been taken the kitchen, and we were all enjoying the dessert, the Senator would pull his chair back a ways from the table and relax. Miss Margaret of course would be holding court. She always wanted to know about everyone, where they were from, if they were married, etc. This particular afternoon, one of the attorneys was telling her that he was married and that he and his wife were expecting their first child.

"Miss" Margaret starting telling stories about their children when they were young. Every once in a while the Senator would speak up, "Now Margaret, that's not exactly how it happened." She would offer some revision to the story and continue.

She told of taking Clara, the family's housekeeper, and their four children to town one afternoon. "Miss" Margaret had an appointment so she dropped Clara and the children off at one of the city parks and went on to her appointment. That evening, as they sat down to dinner, the Senator asked, "Margaret, where are the children?" It was just then she remembered that she had left them at the park and never picked them up. She hurried back into town and found them just where left them. They were sitting there in the dark with Clara waiting for her to come get them.

We all waited for the Senator to interject for some correction. I looked over at him. He just shook his head, "No, I'm afraid that really happened just as she said. I don't know what we would have done without Clara."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Strutting and Fretting

The book is out. In my mind those words go to the tune of  Doris Day's  "The party's over, it's time to call it a day." (OK I'm showing my age - but so be it.) 

Is it a relief? Yes. Is it thrilling? No. At this point the self doubts rush in like waves at high tide. I question everything. Why in the Hell did I do? How much time have I wasted? How many errors are there in the book? To answer that last question I offer  - whatever one can find  in there - go for it. After an editor, 4 additional readers, two different electronic grammar and spell checkers (not to count what Amazon puts the transcript through) and 100's of re-writes, re-reads, re-writes, take this out, add this, re-write, a final read, put that back in, and three  final "final" reads, it is what it is.

My daughter gave birth to bouncing baby girl after 39 weeks of gestation and a 15 minute c-section. The book covers 68 years and was written over a period of 8 months. Hands down the gestation and birth of this book were  much more painful than what my daughter went through to birth my granddaughter.  

She has a beautiful baby girl to show for it. I have 213 pages of something I hope will entertain some and offend none. My bottom line goal is optimism, enough so that my life cannot be seen as Act 5 Scene 5 in Shakespeare's  Macbeth  "Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Not that I would be melodramatic or anything like that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Why is your grandchild always the prettiest? Whoa, let me rephrase that, why is my grandchild the prettiest? For years, I have watched my friends (and mere acquaintances) show me photographs of their new born grandchildren. They always beam with pride. "Isn't she just the cutest thing". Even men, I had no idea had a soft side, suddenly have room in their wallet for that new picture or a photo on their cell phone. The woman, I do not know from Adam's house cat, sitting next to me at the doctor's office is quick to show me the latest pictures of her grandchildren and go into great detail about how smart they are and what they are doing.

So now I too fall into that category of obnoxious grandparents, blind to any blemishes that child may have.  Where we are critical of our children, what they produce can do no wrong. Is it because we are older now, and have years of experience? Is it because we realize life is precious and time goes by so quickly? - "If they could just stay little 'til their Carter's wear out."

My Daddy had the best phrase, after my oldest daughter was born (his first grandchild), he would tell people, "If I had known grandchildren were so much fun, I would have had them first!" I learned how serious he was when one day he decided, on a whim, to go pick her up from day care and was told he could not take her because he did not have a car seat. Two hours later, he had a car seat and they were on their way to eat ice cream. From then on they were quite the sight tootling around town in his 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass controvertible, usually with the top down.

So I guess in every grandparent's eye their grandchild is the cutest, the prettiest, and the smartest. We all deserve those bragging rights. After all it is in the eye of the beholder. Of course all that said, you realize mine really is the cutest, the prettiest, and the smartest.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

She's Here

Weighing in at 6 lbs 15 oz, Ella Louise "Lou" Fenton came into the world Sunday evening at 10:30. And being the first grandchild on both sides and the most beautiful one ever born, it did not take her long to woo all of us. Needless to say we are smitten. 

Mom, Dad, and Babe are all doing well. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Don't Call the Roll I'm Coming Home

I want to get one thing straight - white folks don't know how to have a funeral. Oh we can have the most beautiful flowers, and we can have eloquent speakers. We can have governors and judges and senators come and wax on about the good deeds of the decedent. Mourners can be a little teary and cry very quietly. We will pass handkerchiefs and tissues among ourselves. The family will proceed in. The funeral will be held. The family will proceed out, get back in the long line of black cars, drive to the cemetery where everyone will gather around the tent to hear the very last words. Respects will be paid to the family and that will be it.

African Americans, especially those in the south, know how to have a funeral or "Send them Home" as they say. And they don't whimper or tear up, they cry - they moan, they sob. Their emotions are raw and they are unabashed to show them.  Whereas we are stiff and stoic, God forbid we show much emotion. Anyone really crying at a funeral or, Lord help us, whaling, would be removed from the church and considered an embarrassment to the family. We hold it in. Being proper is going to be the death of us and is going to get us nowhere - for anyone who has any plans.

Clemmie's funeral was held yesterday afternoon and it was a true homecoming. When we walked out of the church we knew she had been sent off well. That she went with the love and joy of her family and there was peace in her soul. The casket was open as the family proceeded in and each member had their final viewing before they sat down. There was no holding back on emotions. Some just held each other and cried. A few whaled and sobbed as if they knew the worse had happened. Sometimes they were so overcome with grief that the  "angels" (ladies provided by the funeral home dressed in white, complete with white gloves)  were there to hold them, sooth them, and get them safely back to their seats in the arms of their loved ones.

There were prayers and Bible readings. There was a tribute, remarks, and hymns. Being an August afternoon the funeral fans came in mighty handy. I did not need one because so many around me were fanning themselves I found myself in a steady breeze. Sympathy cards and the obituary were not read as is tradition. But then a lady got up to sing and her performance was amazing. She rocked the house with an a Capella version of Don't Call the Roll, unlike some demur solo of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, we would have. She encouraged everyone to sing along with her once again bringing joy and participation in the celebration of sending Clemmie home. 

The point is when it was all over, the family went home in peace having let out that emotion, having shared the joy of her kinship, having celebrated her life, having sent her "home" just as she wanted. Most of them will not struggle for months (or years) with her death. If they spent the week prior enjoying food and fellowship with family and  friends calling to visit and pay their respects they had time to reflect on her life and make peace with her death. If they poured their emotions out (whether audibly or not) at the funeral as they saw her for that last time in the casket and then celebrated her life, they will go forth without the angst and intense sadness many of us endure after the loss of a loved one.

Oh, they miss their loved ones as much as we miss ours. I am sure there are days they too find themselves feeling blue reflecting on their loss. But they have a joy in their heart and a light in their soul that we rarely have because God forbid anyone view our real emotions. Instead of truly spending time reflecting on the life and death of our deceased loved one with friends and family for more than a day or two, and for more than several hours, we want "it over with". How can anyone "waste so much time just because someone died?" We fear releasing our true emotions of grief at the time of the funeral will cause some embarrassment or shame to ourselves or the family. Showing joy, happiness or true celebration at a funeral is often seen as irreverent.  

The nephews walked behind the casket as it was taken out of the church, followed by the nieces carrying the flowers, and there was a joy among everyone. All the pain and grief had been shed, the religious rite had been conducted, everyone had been reminded that Clemmie was going home where she ultimately wanted to be. As her favorite hymn said "Don't call the roll 'til I get there. I'm coming Lord all by myself. I want to touch the pearly gates." 

Don't get me wrong, for those who want to "go home" what kind of funeral if any, one has will not matter. It is those of us left who suffer in our love one's death because the priority of our upbringing. The honesty of this event matched Clemmie's life - one of pain and joy and her love of the Lord and her family. If we are having a funeral, we should all be so honest in sending our loved ones off - for our sake.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hold On

I am not lost, just down to the last 20 chapters of the final edit of the new book. So close. And the baby is due any day now. What timing.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Instagram - the New Frontier

At one point I was posting some of my photography on the Blog on a regular basis. But it got cumbersome - OK it got a little much for my little mind to keep up with what I had already posted and what no one had seen yet. So I got lazy and stopped. Recently I joined the online photography community of Instagram. Should you wish to follow my photography and post your own I recommend the site. You can post directly from your phone and set it up (if you wish) so it also posts directly to your Facebook page and lets you add comments.

This my link to Instagram . If you are already a member and I am not following you, please let me know so I can follow up. To me this is a little less "busy" than Facebook. If everyone sticks to posting photography and not adding posters and sayings that are more appropriate for Facebook, then Instagram will be the place to go to see your friends' pictures. 

In the top right hand corner of the Blog you will notice a new icon that looks like a square camera. Clicking on this will also take you to my Instagram account.

I hope to see more of you there. Finally I have found an outlet for my photography where I can share my work with my friends (and you too can share some of it with anyone else you think may find it interesting) and I can SEE what is going on in your life. A camera on your phone is a wonderful thing.

And I am attempting to upload a "Picture of the Day". Hope to see you there. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Saving the Soul at a Southern Funeral

I have often opined about southern funerals. They are an event like no other. You learn the truth about the deceased - the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, if you want the scoop attend the visitation. That is where the scuttlebutt comes out whether or not there is an open bar. Now, you may have to hang out on the back porch or seek that group in the kitchen but there will be tales of the 'loved one' who has gone on.

The funeral will be a whole 'nuther story. Whereas the evening before when you were paying respects to the family and you heard about his dalliances with the ladies, his love of the bottle, and his penchant for the ponies suddenly the deceased has an unabashed love for his family, God, and country. He was a faithful member of the church although the minister mispronounced his name. He was a family man but few fail to notice the line of ladies, more upset than others, sitting on the back row.  In short hopefully any errant ways of his earthly life are erased by the creative eulogy and his pathway to heaven is paved through this last final rite. Talk about being saved by the bell!

But down here probably the most important component of the southern funeral is the food. It is the trays, dishes, and platters of food, representing, what some consider, the four southern comfort foods: pimento cheese sandwiches (large platters stacked high), potato salad (several different kinds -mind you there is still the great debate onions or not?), platters of mouth watering fried chicken, then the endless table of homemade desserts (each the pride of the baker). 

Your status in the community is judged by the number of meat dishes brought as compared to salads or bread. And, if anyone is keeping score, there are major points deducted for anything that is still in the deli container. All this matters. Go to a funeral and peruse the table, if there is only a plate or two of ham amongst bowls and bowls of salads, it does not speak well for the deceased, bless his heart.

Even though you are there mourning the passing of a loved one, friend, or kin folk, most likely from some health issue, a southern funeral is no place for the mention of diets, health food, or weight. If nothing else a funeral is as good excuse as any for a good meal. When was the last time you went to a funeral and were fed yogurt, tofu, and banana chips?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The One and Only "Miss" Margaret

"Miss" Margaret Williams the self-proclaimed "First Lady of Orangeburg" and "Ambassador of South Carolina" passed away yesterday. If there was ever someone who was one of a kind, they broke the mold when she was born, there will never be another one like her, and it was Margaret Shecut Williams.
 I had the pleasure of knowing her for many years as the mother-in-law of Judge Williams, the federal judge I worked for. She was also married to Senator Marshal Williams, a distant cousin of my husband.

One of my fondest memories was her visits to the Judge's chambers. In the lobby was the Judge's full size portrait. If "Miss" Margaret was bringing visitors with her, which she often did, she had a regular tour she narrated as she led her guests through our chambers. This was often to the dismay of the Judge as we generally got little or no notice of an upcoming "tour" and we were trying to work. When she walked in the door, she would give me that bright smile she usually had, her right hand would gracefully wave up to the Judge's portrait as she said, "This is the official portrait of the Judge painted by Robert Bruce Williams". And with that I knew the tour had begun.

She was the consummate hostess. In the fall of 1989 she was entertaining a group of Russians in her home for a week showing them her beloved state. Unfortunately that was the week hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina. Orangeburg was without electricity and water for days. Not ruffled at all, Miss Margaret carried her guests (who spoke little if any English) across the street to her son's home, gave them her nicest towels, bars of her Nieman Marcus soap, and showed them her son's pool, explaining to them to use it as a bathtub.

And she was known for her outfits, mainly her hats. If it was a dressy occasion, she always had a very nice coordinating hat. Often she dressed in a theme. It may be that of the holiday of the time, a color, or how she felt that morning when she awoke. She was always positive and I rarely remember her without a smile on her face. Even the morning after the death of her beloved Marshal, she was at her home dressed in a bright red suit (it was around Christmas) ready to greet the many visitors coming to the home to pay their respects to the Senator they so loved and admired. 

Although the world will not be the same without "Miss" Margaret and I, along with many, will miss her, she lived a long life that touched many people. She reared a family whom she loved. And they in kind adored her. Every generation from her children to her great grandchildren learned lessons from her and will treasure their memories with her. There are many "Miss" Margaret stories that are being shared these days. There are very few around here who did not know her. 

One day after we learned of the Judge's diagnosis of Alzheimer's, she sat in my office. For once I saw a sadness in her. She looked at me. "Ann Currie," she said. "I’ve been through a lot. And God gives us challenges. I always knew there was a chance I would bury Marshal. But it is just not right for me to bury Mary Ashley (her daughter) and Burns (her son), and now watch Karen (the Judge whom she dearly loved as a daughter) be taken away from us like this. The Bible said we would face trials but this is a lot for one woman."

I agreed with her that it was a lot but if anyone had the strength it was her. Then we talked a bit about her life and all she had done. We laughed about some of her escapades. Then she looked at me, "You know I have had a wonderful life, haven't I?"

"Yes, mam you sure have. And the rest of us have also because of you."

She just smiled, thanked me, and stood up. Her driver had arrived and it was time for her to leave. She told me she loved me and I returned the thought. 

Each spring when her lovely cherry trees bloom I will think about her and her positive outlook, her unabashed love for her family, her dedication to her city and state, and her sincere desire to make the world a better place in her own way. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

The South's Food Groups

I just got an email inviting me to a food fair on "Healthy Southern Cooking". Now I do not mean to be a curmudgeon but if it is a show on real southern cooking they should have named their show "Tasty Southern Cooking", "Traditional Southern Cooking", or "Good Ol' Southern Cooking", but they chose the word 'Healthy'. Many would call that an oxymoron. I will not stoop to that argument. But it didn't sound right and I chose to regret to their kind thought due to prior plans I had made but I was sure it would be lovely affair enjoyed by all.

It is not worth my time. As my Auntie would say, "Why mess up something good?" or a good friend of mine would say, "Why screw it up?"  My first thought was "Have they lost their ever loving minds?" Whatever the reaction, they are talking about two different things here. Oh they are not necessarily mutually exclusive - well maybe. 

I can almost imagine the "small" changes they would make, certainly just take a little here, a tad there, nothing anyone would even notice. "It's the same thing."Yeah right. The last time I heard that, my mother was telling me that the homemade copy she made me of the authentic Lacoste tennis shirt all my friends were wearing was "just the same". It was made from polyester and since she could not find an alligator from the notions store to sew on the left breast certainly no one would notice that she substituted a small elephant. I digress.

Part of southern cooking, let's say the heart of southern cooking, is the flavor. And that flavor is not something you can bottle (short of someones secret BBQ sauce) or put in a flavor packet. The collards taste just right because of the thick pieces of bacon, hunk of fat back, or piece of salted pork you browned in the pot before you threw the collards in. 

Biscuits will not work correctly without Crisco or lard. (And for the record, I seriously doubt Bisqick contains dehydrated lard.) OK, you can fry chicken in vegetable oil and it will taste great. But I can assure you it tastes better in lard. And no, there is no such thing as "Oven Baked Fried Chicken" - seriously? 

Butter is a food group down here, along with bacon, and gravy. A decent biscuit deserves a pat of sweet creamy butter. "I can't believe it's not butter" isn't - just in case your mother never told you. Margarine is blasphemy along with turkey bacon (now there's an oxymoron) and powdered gravy.

I realize that due to heart health issues some folks need to abstain from the saturated fats. Everything in moderation. However, anyone who knows anything about the south knows moderation is not in our DNA. The only time southern women use moderation is in their words when writing a note of regret to the hostess of a party they did not want to attend in the first place.

So I'm Quaint?

I was having drinks one evening with some ladies at a conference in Portland Oregon and we were trying to discuss anything but business. Naturally I had taken a great deal grief earlier that day about my southern drawl. I only hoped they were as interested in the topic of my session as they were with the way I talked.

While we sat there that evening talking they started asking questions and as more rounds of wine were poured their inquiries seemed more and more to come my direction. "Do you really have your own personal note cards?"

" Are your daughter's clothes monogrammed?"

"Do you have those things down there, you know those dances called, oh what are they? Cotillions, yeah Cotillions, do you have those?"

Finally I made them stop. Yes, I explained, I did have some personal note cards. And, yes, both my daughters did wear some monogrammed clothes. Then I did my best to explain that we were just generally social down here and the term "cotillion" could refer to the couples' dance club my husband and I were in or the organization of mothers who had formal dances for their high school aged daughters twice a year. I figured they really meant debutante balls but I wasn't about to go down that rabbit hole with them.

The round robin discussion about monogrammed clothes made it sound as if I was sending my children off to school every day either with their names emboldened across their chest or the family crest stitched on them. It got lost in translation. I hoped no one thought to ask me about monogrammed sheets and towels or, God forbid, glassware.

Then one young girl from Wisconsin commented, "Well I'm just not sure what I would do with the personal note cards. I only write my grandmother because she doesn't use email. What would I do with the rest of it."

Another lady from California laughed,"Oh, I imagine she writes a lot of notes. Down there they write notes for everything, thanking you for anything you did, to let you know she was thinking about you, or that she will not be able to come to your party."


"Well, it is just something we were brought up doing," I added.

"We call it quaint," said the lady from California. So I had been put in my place - quaint.

Then one lady who had been sitting quietly through all this spoke up. "I think if you are smart, you find a mother who has good taste. Then you name your daughter so she has the same initials as the daughter of that lady then you purchase the child's clothes as she grows out of them for your daughter."

I thought for a moment, should I explain the term "tacky" to them. No, I let that one die. But I made a mental note to remind them before the night was over that we do not marry our cousins. I can handle quaint, but somewhere we need to draw the line. I may have a penchant for note writing and my daughters surely knew their initials by age two, however, even though our family tree may be gnarly,  it certainly branches out wide.