Anne’s gardenia

Years ago, when I moved into my house, my friend Anne gave me a gardenia as a housewarming gift. As a Northern girl, I didn’t grow up with gardenias, or for that matter, know much at all about many plants, trees, or flowers. One of the things I love most about the South is the working knowledge so many folks have with the trees, plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables that grow so abundantly here in the heat.

Anne planted the gardenia very purposely right near my front door, and every year, I forget about it, until the first hot days of spring arrive, the white buds burst open, and the sweet, heady, heavenly smell envelops my senses and yard.

Anne gave me that gardenia, in part, because her Grandma whom she had adored and lost just before we became friends, loved them.

After enduring nearly simultaneous breakups, Anne and I solidified a lifetime friendship by licking our wounds, mending our hearts, perfecting our sarcasm, making dinner, and laughing over cocktails.  In fact, I think the other reason she gave me the gardenia was to remind me of what flourishes and flowers even in the most extreme conditions.

And we did.

Tweet of the week

As the summer nestles in for its long stay to give us its fiery, hot-wet-blanket best, I thought this little tweet just summed it all up so nicely. Plus, I laughed aloud and nearly snarfed my coffee upon reading it. Thanks, @B2TheEasyE. And a happy, sultry holiday weekend to you all!

P.S. Nice hashtag.



Happy Hour

The Charleston area has been the subject of some fantastic press lately. Named one of the Best Places in the Southeast to Retire by The Wall Street Journal. Profiled in The New York Times “36 Hours In..” series. And, randomly, in Travel + Leisure’s List of America’s Most and Least Attractive Cities. (Sorry, Santa Fe, times are tough.)

Those of us who live here know the magic of this place. How it can leave even the most jaded souls gob-smacked and struggling for description. We don’t mind. It’s a rather nice problem to have.

With all that said, here’s the latest ad for the town of Mount Pleasant for the South Carolina Vacation Guide. Design by Mark Lawrence from Gil Shuler Graphic Design; copy by me.

Darkness To Light: It Takes A Village

A while back, my friend Robert Prioleau invited me to help with a re-branding project for Darkness To Light, the Charleston-based non-profit working to end child sexual abuse. I got the opportunity to meet with D2L’s CFO, Jolie Logan, who was heading up the project, and it was a big one: a new identity, courtesy of the mega-talented Gil Shuler; a new website courtesy of the teamwork and talents of designer Sarena Norton, Blackbaud, Blue Ion and the driven, committed folks at D2L; plus, a new tagline, copy and positioning by me.

I should express my undying respect for Jolie Logan and the D2L team’s hard work and can-do attitude to see these projects through. A re-branding project is always a bold and exciting time for an organization…and truth be told, it’s a bit of a gamble, because it involves change. And I may be a bit biased, but I think the new logo, positioning, tagline and website bring a renewed energy and commitment to an organization that doesn’t just say what they want to do…they do it and continually find ways to empower more people to help them do it. Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved with the project. It’s been an incredible experience.

Logo by Gil Shuler Graphic Design.
Darkness To Light homepage
The Issue

Here’s a bit of the copy I wrote:

Think of 4 girls you know.

Now guess which one will be sexually abused before she’s 18.

Now think of 6 boys you know.

Which one of them will be sexually abused before he’s 18?

No one wants to think about it.

That’s what abusers of children count on, of course. Shame, embarrassment, fear, confusion.

They keep children silent.

They keep adults ignorant.

They keep truth hidden in the dark.

Why should you care?

It doesn’t happen in your town.

At your school.

In your church.

Actually, it does.

In fact, more than 90% of abusers are people children know, love or trust.

And the cost is great.

The reality is that one incident of childhood sexual abuse costs a community nearly $14,000.

The emotional cost in incalculable.
Research shows that people who are sexually violated as children are far more likely to experience psychological problems often lasting into adulthood, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression, suicide, substance abuse and relationship problems.

Child sexual abuse is not the problem of one region, race, creed, socio-economic status or gender. It impacts every community and every person in America.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse don’t just suffer emotionally. They suffer physically.

  • Victims of childhood sexual abuse are more likely to suffer from obesity.
  • Are more likely to suffer from heart disease.
  • Are more likely to engage in destructive behavior with drugs and alcohol.

In fact, if child sexual abuse were like most childhood diseases, the prevalence and consequences of it would lead to telethons to raise money for its cure. But child sexual abuse is one of the last cultural taboos. With the exception of child-focused personal safety programs, almost nothing is being done to address it. That’s where Darkness to Light and the good news beings.From volunteers to educators to donors, being an active participant in the mission to end childhood sexual abuse is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

Learning the facts about sexual abuse helps prevent it.
Read the 7 Steps to Protecting Our Children to learn simple, proactive steps you can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly.

Talking about it helps prevent it.
We make sure our children are in car seats and seat belts. We walk them across busy streets. We ask our teens where they are going and who they will be with. All to keep them safe. And yet, when it comes to the crime of sexual abuse, we often grow silent. Darkness to Light stands ready to help you find the words to have the conversation every family needs to be safe and empowered.

Getting involved helps prevent it.
From volunteers to educators to donors, being an active participant in the mission to end childhood sexual abuse is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

If childhood sexual abuse can be prevented, it can be stopped. Through awareness, education and prevention, children can move from silence to exuberance. Adults can move from ignorance to empowerment.

And truth can move from darkness to light.

High Cotton gets fresh

Been working with pals at Blue Ion on some fantastically fun projects for Maverick Southern Kitchens, the passionate folks behind High Cotton, Slight North of Broad, Old Village Post House, Charleston Cooks, High Hammock and High Cotton Greenville. Our goal for all the projects is simple: share the goodness that’s inherent: the amazing food, talented staff and warm hospitality. Check out an upcoming print ad we produced. Props and thanks to Woody, Josh, Nicola and Robert.

Marketing Mount Pleasant

A few weeks back, my pals at Blue Ion and Gil Shuler Graphic Design asked me to help craft a brand story about the town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. As some of you know, Mount Pleasant has been in the midst of a strategic marketing initiative to enhance and grow the community.

Armed with some heavy-duty resident research and strategic planning, Blue Ion, Dean Foster, Gil Shuler and I went to work to craft creative to support the initiative. After much discussion, Gil put together a super sweet logo. I crafted the story below. Many thanks to Dean Foster for sharing his thoughts and insights and always, to Blue Ion and Gil. Big squeeze.

One last thing: Yes, I am a born and bred New Jersey girl writing about the Lowcountry of South Carolina. But let me just say: duh, I’m a writer, that’s what I do. And two, for a year and a half I lived in a quirky apartment on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. I cannot tell you exactly what that time and those long walks through the Old Village did to me, but perhaps it’s evident in the words.

To understand Mount Pleasant is to intimately know the water – the ebb and flow of the tide. The marsh creeks and rivers that surround us. Living here means  measuring time and joy by the water. Is it high tide? Can we take the johnboat out? Here, water is sustenance – shrimp boats at dawn, crabbing off the dock, the day’s catch being hauled in. It’s the taste that lingers on your lips after day is done.

Mount Pleasant is an idealist. Our strong neighborhoods are built from generations of strong neighbors – folks who work hard, whose children play with yours, who say “hey” when they see you, who gently guide even the most confused tourists to the beach. Our solid schools are crafted by a close-knit community of teachers, citizens, parents and children.

Mount Pleasant is borne of the land and water. Protecting them is part of who we are. Not just because our shrimp are caught in local waters or our tomatoes grown on local vines. Not just so that our children and grandchildren have them to enjoy, but because this kind of raw beauty, this rich history and culture has a harmony to it we strive to emulate. The land and water have a life well beyond ours and are at their best when shared.

Mount Pleasant tells a great story – from Sewee Indian to Capitan O’Sullivan, from dirt road to highway, from inlet to open sea, to “talkative” wood floors and tin roofs to fisher monger to physician. There is a gift for conversation here, an ease of sharing, which brings with it the ability to question, listen, entertain and lend a needed hand. Some say it’s Southern hospitality. The stuff of beloved novels or bedtime stories. To us, it’s simply a way of life. The sweet life.

Check out the video Blue Ion and friends put together based on the copy here.

Of country clubs, peanuts & wrecks

Saturday is rib-eye night.

I was reminded recently of all the things I love about living in Charleston. When I first moved here from New Jersey, (hi, culture shock) my friend Deanne, born and raised in Mount Pleasant, took great delight in a little game I came to call “Shock the Yankee.”

As my self-appointed guide to Southern culture, Deanne set out on a quest to immerse me in a variety of experiences. And really, after any initial shock, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Here are three of my favorite moments:

  1. Harold’s Country Club in Yemassee. First of all, if you’re going to Harold’s, you call ahead to reserve food. Saturday is rib-eye steak night, so call ahead for your slab o’ meat. Once there, you’ll hunker down over a very satisfying steak dinner with hunters, fishermen, bikers, plantation owners and other randoms who’ve been lured in by the promise of a good time. After dinner, you can bloat over a beer at the bar and watch the line dancing ensue. By the way, as it did originally, Harold’s still sells both gasoline and live bait. Score!
  2. The Peanut Festival in Pelion. Not only did I get to hear Miss South Carolina flub the Pledge of Allegiance,  (I’m serious. We all winced.) I got to suck on some EXCELLENT boiled peanuts and watch the Peanut Parade, complete with Shriners in fezzes tearing around on go-carts.
  3. The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene. A Mount Pleasant institution. Named for the trawler  tragically impaled on a piling during Hurricane Hugo, The Wreck is a bit of a Shem Creek secret. I know people who have lived here for years who get lost at least twice when trying to find it. A sweet and endearing dive, The Wreck is about seafood of all varieties. And if you know what’s good for you, order it fried. Honestly, go big or go home, people.

Yarborough Applegate: sleeves rolled up

Find help here.

Friends at Blue Ion just launched a site for two Charleston attorneys and their new firm, Yarborough Applegate. I had the opportunity to meet with William and David as I worked on copy for their site. Both are Charleston natives. In fact, they’ve been friends since childhood. And, both worked for big Charleston firms, William at Motley Rice and David at Pierce, Herns, Sloan & McLeod before deciding to break out on their own.

When I sat down with them, I was struck by their intelligence and intensity. Though their passion for what they do manifests differently in each of them, there’s simply no question that these guys mean what they say. Which, as lawyers go, is more than refreshing.

I think it’s that feeling that informed Blue Ion’s Creative Director David Wood and his talented wife Shannon to craft an identity and design for Yarborough Applegate that sets them apart. Many thanks to the entire Blue Ion team, especially Mike, Brian and Chris, who helped me craft copy that search engines will just love.

Here’s a bit of copy I wrote for the site:

Tireless And Tenacious

We Do This Work Because This Is Your Life.
Not Just Our Case.

We think you have a right to live your life to the fullest potential. If something happens to get in the way of that, we’re there. We are driven and determined in pursuit of a remedy for your loss. When it comes to your life, there’s simply no other way we can be.

Snowy evening in Charleston

This Jersey girl spent Friday night watching it snow, YES, snow in Charleston. The first accumulative snow the Holy City has seen since 1989. I watched what began as cold rain turn into sleet. I sat outside listening to the sleet as it ricocheted lightly off of windows, cars and trees, waiting. When the sleet began changing into snow, I sat motionless, wondering how long it could last.

When it became clear that the snow meant business, I walked inside and spent the evening on the couch in front of my picture window. For hours I watched the snow in wonder and disbelief. Watching snow cover palm fronds is quite a sight to see.

I’ve been away from New Jersey winters long enough to forget the absolute hush that comes over the world when it snows. Though I’m not sure how long the quiet lasted, I know it’s a memory now burned in my brain, like the smell of my Dad’s bread baking.

The silence finally broke to sounds of joy: shrieks of delight and amazement from neighbors young and old, loud laughter and shouts from friends gathering great handfuls of snow for snowball fights.

As I looked to the streetlights to see the snow, I remembered dozens of nights from my childhood where I strained to see snowflakes in a beam of light, promising the universe whatever it wanted as long as I could have a snow day. PLEASE!

Funny how two inches of Southern snow can take a girl all the way back home.