Friends, the Lowcountry, and Thoughts on Life…..

Boy, it’s been awhile since I blogged. Time sure flies when you’re busy.

I spent last week in Folly Beach and Charleston, South Carolina in search of just the right places to market FOLLY BEACH DANCES, my ‘healing’ coffee table book.

Folly Beach Dances graces the shelves of independent bookstores in South Carolina – Blue Bicycle in Charleston, and Indigo Books on Kiawah Island, and the Folly Beach Pier giftshop. I’m very grateful for these opportunities to showcase my proudest mission, and journey.

While in South Carolina, I visited the sweet town of Summerville for the first leg of a freelance story, and visited a dear friend from Missouri. It was wonderful to share time together.

I enjoyed savory food, new sights, and the company of my best friend and Folly Beach Dances, contributing writer, Tina Solomon.Key Lime Pie - Eclectic Chef

We had some laughs, got lost a few times, met some interesting people, visited her family, and of course, spent time at the beach.

You know the beach just has it’s way of pulling you in.

Dreamy, creamy sunsets. The wild surf. The soft sand between your toes. The sultry nights. Long conversations with friends. I just love it all.

Tina and I on the beach

We even saw a couple young men twirling fire wands in the dark of night. It was mesmerizing.

And although the Carolinas are (by far) my favorite states, and I know I’ll be back in October for several book events, it’s always nice to come home to the ones you love. An understanding husband. Some goofy dogs. A couple of arrogant cats. Some Daddy Long Legs on the porch. The resident rabbits.

The scene from my kitchen table overlooking our property is priceless – cardinals, hummingbirds, rustic oak trees, and a squirrel scampering on our deck with not one, but two, walnuts in his mouth.

And as I sit here in the quiet of the house, penning this post, and watching my wonderful husband work with feet propped up on the ottoman, I’m thankful. Thankful for all the opportunities afforded me as a writer and photographer over the last six years.

Bordeaux at front door

The low hum of a motor sounds

in the distance.

 

The big dog

rests peacefully

astride the ocean-hued rug

gazing at the bounty of green

outside his door.

 

Sheree K. Nielsen, copyright Sept., 2014

A little Grapefruit Cake, and a Bittersweet Memory

DSCN0543 cake

 

I came across this note written on small yellow-lined paper from my neighbor Bob, an excellent chef. He crafted a beautiful Grapefruit Cake for friend, Donna’s, retirement party.

Along with the cake, he included some personal notes about the cake. I’d like to share the note. It’s so beautifully written.

“For decades the Hollywood Brown Derby was a magnet – drawing tourists from all over America. It was not the great food and drink that drew them; it was the chance to see Bogart, Gable, and Loy. Maybe they would rub shoulders with movie moguls – Louis B. Meyer or Frank Capra.

Two dishes invented there were the Cobb Salad and the Grapefruit Cake.

I’ve done the Grapefruit Cake for the retirement party. I’ve added some touches of my own: grapefruit marmalade, candied grapefruit peels, and a mascarpone icing. The candied peel is an acquired taste – think of it as a garnish – you don’t have to eat it. I hope you enjoy it.”

Regards,

Bob
______________

Well, the Grapefruit Cake was a hit. It is bittersweet that I found these snapshots on my camera today…..we lost Donna’s husband, Robert a couple of months ago….

DSCN0544 lifegroup

Lifegroup doing Life Together

 

Folly Beach Dances – Reflections on a book launch party

May 1, my husband and and I, released our ‘healing’ coffee table Folly Beach Dances for purchase on the book’s official website Beach Dances.  May 4, we kicked off with a IMG_0073book launch party and celebration at Grand Opera House in St. Charles, Missouri.

Our ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances, combines our love affair with Folly Beach, South Carolina, along with lyrical movements and universal beauty – expressed through dance names. It tells the story of sandpipers, babies, dogs, and yes, even structures moving in infinite rhythm.

Literary interpretations from five award-winning women authors, including us, accompany our photographs of Folly Beach.

Diagnosed with lymphoma in June 2012, I’m donating 10 percent of every book sale to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Debbie Kersting, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Gateway Chapter Director, has written the foreword for the book.

Sunday night was beautiful.

Friends, and family wore the colors of sand, sea and sky.IMG_0184 Ashley Delgado

The sweet vocals of Ashley Delgado mixed with the acoustic musings of Chris Griffith, guitarist extraordinaire.

The three food tables were a cornucopia of sorts. Chocolate-covered almonds, sesame-honey coated cashews, coconut macaroons were a few of the dessert delectables.  Cheddar bay biscuits, prosciutto wrapped mozzarella, and kalamata olives provided sustenance.  Friends arranged the tables for Russell and I, so we could focus on the event.

IMG_0015White tablecloths draped with weathered gray and sandalwood hued napkins complimented the white and caramel-colored candles under glass hurricanes, and balloon bouquets hung from the ceiling and rails.

The speakers for the night – Representative Bryan Spencer, Wentzville district; Deborah Marshall, Warrior Arts Alliance; Kristy Makansi, Treehouse Author Services, and of course, Debbie Kersting, Gateway Chapter Director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Kris Makansi (Tree House), Russell, me, Deb Kersting (LLS), Deb Marshall (WAA)

Kris Makansi (Tree House), Russell, me, Deb Kersting (LLS), Deb Marshall (WAA)

Contributing Authors Pat Wahler, Patt Pickett, Mary Horner and Tina Solomon read a selection of their poems, accompanied by appropriate photographs projected on the wall behind them.

I spoke about the book’s mission, and how important it is to take care of yourself.  There were tributes to friends Rick Wheeler, diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, and friend Dave Reed, who’s overcome Histocytic Sarcoma, a deadly cancer.

And finally, as the program came to a close, Russell and I called Debbie Kersting back up to turn over our donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

IMG_0171

There were many door prizes – the book, greeting cards (photos from the book), sparkling juices, and even a black pearl bracelet from the Caribbean.

Friends shared how touched and moved they were by the entire evening, and gave big hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s.”  And even one couple whispered in my ear, “We made a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society this evening.”

Russell and I hoped we made a difference by hosting the book launch.

It’s not really about the book, it’s about the people.

The people you meet at your local Starbucks, the people you’ve known forever, the friendships you forge, the family life time relationships, those you’ve made a difference in their lives, and loved ones that have passed on.

And when you think about it, everybody’s got something.  Physical ailments, issues, hard times, relationship troubles. Isn’t it true?

This book is dedicated to dreamers, the beach lovers, the dancers, the Mom’s and Dad’s, Folly Beach residents and all those with ailments – everywhere.

It’s meant to be a book of self-hope and positivity.

So when you got out into this big fat beautiful (sometimes cruel) world, remember to dance!

It’ll make you feel real good.

Love and Peace and All That Stuff,

Sheree

 

7.5 DSC_0292 lead in photo to At the Beach excerpt sansumi font

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community News, an award, and a pinch of inspiration

I’ll make this one short and sweet.

In November, I won an award from the Missouri Humanities Council and the Warrior Arts Alliance for a photo taken of my husband on Bird Island, North Carolina titled “Dear Kindred Spirit”.

The Kindred Spirit Bench is becoming my safe place, my inspiration, the ying to my yang….you know what I mean.

Here’s the story behind the photo and the award.  Hope you enjoy.  The photo is on display at the St. Peters Cultural Art Center, St. Peters, Missouri.

Comm News 12-4-13 Sheree copy

Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts Takes me Away to Exuma and Nassau!

Our group with Exuma Cay Adventures

Our group with Exuma Cay Adventures

DSCN0459 us on exuma cay copyr

When your editor asks if you can go to the Bahamas to do an article on all-inclusive resorts, you say yes!

Just received my contributor copies of AAA Southern Traveler and AAA Midwest Traveler for November / December 2013 and was elated to see my feature article titled Packaged Deal grace the pages of both magazines.

The employees of Sandals, Emerald Bay and Sandals Royal Bahamian were gracious, friendly, fun and informative.

For the first time in my life, hubby and I experienced ‘king and queen treatment’ with butler service at both resorts.  And the Red Lane spa service, especially the West Indian massage, was to die for.

On Exuma, we snorkeled right off the beach, sipped cappuccinos and ate pastries at Café De Paris several times daily, and enjoyed the Friday night junkanoo with a limbo dancer.  The resort even set up a full day excursion for us – the 007 Thunderball Luxury Tour.

At the Nassau resort, we savored exquisite food, relaxed at our private cabana at the offshore island in a Zen garden setting, and enjoyed a personal tour of downtown Nassau with its colorful sights and sounds.

DSC_2155 downtown Nassau mural copyr

Chester and Russell at Parade Is. bridge

Chester and Russell at Parade Is. bridge

Thank you Chester, Kendra, Snovakia our PR peeps at the resorts; Jessica our tour organizer, and Peter Burrows of Exuma Cay Adventures.  And who could forget our butlers – Logesh at Emerald Bay, and Everette, Dillon, and Antonio at Royal Bahamian.

It’s better in the Bahamas!

Here’s the links:

AAA Midwest Traveler

AAA Southern Traveler

(If you have any trouble with the links, plug in a zip code from Missouri for the Midwest Traveler article at the prompt, and one from Arkansas for Southern Traveler)

Are people still alive, even though they’ve passed on?

Mom & Dad (4th & 5th from right, Grandma Kate, Grandma Mary (far right)

Mom & Dad (4th & 5th from left, Grandma Kate, Grandma Mary (far right)

I read an article by Bill McClellan in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Wednesday titled “No one to name faces in photos”.

Although I didn’t quite understand why the story was titled this, I read on.

I was touched by Mr. McClellan’s urgency to look at old photos tucked away in a corner of his home, after his father passed on.  He cleaned out the mobile home his dad and his mother lived in, all the while wondering what items to save.

He sifted through photos of his sister, dog, and parents while living in Chicago over 50 years ago.  There were photos of his grandmother from Belfast and his sister Sarah.

There were antique photographs – you know, the sharp and crisp kind, of days gone by.  People got dressed up for special occasions.  Or for no reason at all.

As he sifted through the cardboard box of memories, he realized that no one alive could identify mom and dad’s friends in the photos.

The line that struck me most from the article goes like this:

“They say a person is really dead only when nobody alive really thinks of them.”

I’ve been thinking about this statement for two days.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Although my Mom and Dad have passed on, I think about them daily.  I pray for them daily.

I often think about my grandmother on my Dad’s side, Mary.

I remember the Saturday morning drive to visit her in the Soulard district of St. Louis.

I remember walking up two flights of stairs, and the pungent smell of liver and onions wafting across the back yard.

I remember her opening the weathered and paint-chipped door to her apartment, and always being surprised to see us.

I remember her broken-Lithuanian accent and her frail, arthritic hands.

I remember she used to shake her fist at Dad, and curse at him in her native language.

I remember she used to call me “She-ree” and slip a twenty dollar bill in my hand, each time we’d visit.

I remember her smile, the wrinkles at the corner of her lips, and that sometimes she didn’t wear her dentures.

I remember she was short of stature, and had a huge heart.

I remember that she was humble.

Daily she’d trek to Soulard Market by foot for vegetables and fruits with her rolling cart.

I remember that when she passed on, my Mom, Dad, brother, and sister-in-law helped clean out her tiny walk-up apartment on 8th street.  One of the interesting artifacts we found was a bag of birdseed, within a glass jar, within another bag of birdseed, within another glass jar.  I suppose she couldn’t let go of the memory of her pet canary.

I remember a photo of my grandfather with a handlebar mustache.  Although an illness took him early in life, I felt like we’d met. The picture hung above her dusty tattered sofa.

So I guess a person is really dead, if no one thinks of them.  I don’t like the word dead.  I try to use other synonyms when referring to ‘that’ word.

I think of all those loved ones who’ve gone before me – their spirits are still alive in my heart.  And I can see their faces in front of me.  Almost like I can reach out and touch their physical presence.

Thank you Bill McClellan for your article.  Although the purpose of the article may not be what you intended, it stirred up great memories for me.