At Martha’s Vineyard it was the Lighthouses that Beckoned Us!

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We kicked off our summer vacation with our very first visit to the New England coast and the lovely island of Martha’s Vineyard. We managed to time our visit right at the beginning of the summer season which officially begins around mid June although the tourist scene begins to awaken from its winter slumber during the week following the Memorial weekend holiday. Thus, we were greeted with curiosity by the local shop owners and restauranteurs who wondered why we were here so early. “Yeah, we just opened,” they kept telling us, apologizing for not quite being fully operational.

But, limited store hours and minimal island offerings notwithstanding, we eeked out a Vineyard vacation just the same! The weather was even working against us this week. The forecast had promised sun and 60s which we got a peek of here and there, but the clouds and rain persisted as did the cool–okay, cold–but we would not be deterred!  This place is lovely, rain or shine! The cottage-style homes, the quaint bed & breakfasts, the cozy holes just welcome you.

Our accomodations were perfect, on location in Edgartown, near little shops and boutiques and facing the ocean (although next time I’ll get a room one floor up so I don’t have to stand on my tiptoes to see the “oceanview” we were promised!). We also found some GREAT eating places–Sharky’s for fattening Tex-Mex, Biscuits for yummy breakfast (two words: French toast, I’m through!) and the Copper Wok for the best sesame tofu and fried rice you’ve ever tasted, bar none!

But, I must say, my favorite thing was the lighthouses! I think they are so beautiful and inspiring. Each one has a history and a story.  The lighthouses also gave us a perfect reason to tour the island. Since the weather didn’t permit bike riding or beach time, we instead crisscrossed several towns–TisburyOak BluffsAcquinna and Vinyard Haven in search of the historic lighthouse sites and stumbled upon a few other interesting places along the way (which I will talk about in future blogs).

The Gayhead

The Martha’s Vineyard online magazine calls the lighthouses “working monuments” of history, an appropriate moniker, I think, considering their sole purpose is to provide a beacon for travelers who either lose their way or are unaware of lurking dangers. Such was the case with The Gayhead lighthouse erected in November 1799. So many lives were lost because of an “underwater ledge running from cliffs westward” that mariners referred to it as the “Devil’s Bridge,” but Gayhead’s bright beams outshined that menace and has spared many over the years.

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East Chop

Meanwhile, the East Chop lighthouse was the lighthouse the government didn’t want! They thought the West Chop lighthouse was enough! But, the relentless Captain Dagget raised the funds himself to build it in 1869. Through valiant effort he proved it’s worth and it’s still praiseworthy today!

 

Edgartown

We only made it to 3 of the 5 lighthouses this trip, but the Edgartown lighthouse was just walking distance from our hotel, so on May 31st we trudged through the rain and settled for this shot of the stately edifice in the hazy distance:

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Then we awoke on June 1st to a bright sun beaming through our windows! What is it about the month of June in Martha’s Vineyard? So, of course, we trekked back and got a better and brighter pic, woohoo!

What a difference a day makes!

According to island lore, this lighthouse was built on a manmade island in 1828 and the path that leads to it was dubbed “The Bridge of Sighs as couples drew out their goodbyes on the walk to the lighthouse before being separated for weeks, months, or forever by whaling voyages.” Such a sad story to be associated with such a pretty place! And it is an absolutely gorgeous spot, surrounded by sand with a port and sailing boats on one side and a beach and the open ocean on the other.

Despite the beauty of the place the lighthouses are reminders that life is fragile and fleeting. They stand as beacons that beckon weary travelers to safety. For those, like us, who arrive they are symbolic of a safe haven while also a memorial for those who never return.

During our visit to Martha’s these bright structures beckoned us. They invited us to stay awhile, to listen to their stories and understand their purpose–how they came to be and what they’ve come to mean to the people who have relied on them for their very lives.

While here we have also made memories and established our own history! On the last day, as we zipped into town to catch our ferry, we managed to squeeze in a quick bike ride! In our final moments on the island, we pedaled along the quiet north side, behind tree-lined neighborhoods, past well-kept lawns admiring, again, the beauty…

By the time we pushed off from the dock and watched the coastline fade into the distance,  we were nostalgic, but also determined that we must return, because there is still more to see and do. After all, our stories and discoveries have really only begun!

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Mayhem Monday: Why the Source of your Problems isn’t Who You Think!

I want to speak on something that may not win me any popularity contests, but it’s truth: quite simply, too many of us are focused on the wrong thing. We think our problems are the result of who when in actuality they have more to do with how! We think that it’s people who cause us grief when in reality it’s how we respond to them that determines that grief.

In addition, we’re unwilling to own our stuff and as long as we don’t own it, we will continue to be plagued by it.

What do I mean?  I’m talking about our focus:

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  • Rather than focus on your child’s misbehavior or academic deficiencies, you focus on everything that’s wrong with the school, the teachers or the administration…
  • Rather than focus on your insecurities or low self-esteem, you focus on how everybody’s doing you wrong, treating you badly and not giving you your due…
  • Rather than focus on your academic short-comings, you focus on your professors’ unwillingness to grade on the curve…
  • Rather than focus on your poor work ethic, you focus on your boss’ unwillingness to promote you…
  • Rather than focus on your bad habits, you focus on your friends’ unwillingness to be around you!

At what point do you turn the lens onto yourself? At what point does it become less about them and more about YOU?  When does it become your responsibility to improve the situation?

When is it time to own your stuff?

Maybe it’s  all the CNN and Fox News headlines that are starting to get to me. Maybe it’s the social media I’ve been seeing lately, but this blame game is ridiculous! Who’s at fault? Who cares? Pointing fingers is getting us NOWHERE!

Who do you blame for the problems that you’re dealing with? Is it all on the other guys? Are you sure about that?  Rarely are issues one-sided, but it’s so easy to project our shortcomings onto others.  How easy is it, though, to face criticism that is directed at us when it’s true?

Maybe, just maybe,  it’s time to look in the mirror. Nobody’s perfect, so why not figure out how to work through the imperfections rather than being so quick to attack? Why not try extending grace to others so that they may be willing to extend grace to us when (not if) we need it?  To solve our conflicts or fix our problems, why not try something different?

Why not change our focus?

Focus What will that look like for you, this focus on solutions? That’s a question you’ll have to answer, but I can tell you what it won’t look like. It won’t look like blaming or  pointing fingers. It won’t be about other people at all. It will begin with you.

What do you need to improve in yourself? In your children? In your habits? In your work ethic? Before you look outward, look inward.

Happy Monday!

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Don’t forget our Cityscape Challenge! Share pics of your favorite spots in the city or town where you live. Also, why not kickstart your day with my Green Tea Smoothie and a Tabata?

 

Books & Coffee Cityscape Challenge!

Do you love your city? Are there special places where you always hang out, take a stroll or take in some incredible views?

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Are you like me? Don’t really love where you live–kind of got stuck here because of school or circumstance? Well, you’re here now, might as well make the best of it, right?

Spring and summer are my favorite time of year.  It’s the weather. The warmth of the sun beckons me to believe that anything is possible! And now that summer is (almost) here I have more time to focus on writing, that always makes me happy!  So, I’ve decided to kick off the summer with a Books & Coffee photo challenge!  And, as we already learned with our ekphrastic poetry, images conjure words and ideas that can inspire limitless creations, so why not take advantage of the blooms and balmy vistas all around us during this season?

Grab your iPhone or Canon and trek over to your favorite place, or if you don’t have a favorite place, try looking around with fresh eyes. Find a forgotten corner of town and let it inspire you to see it in a new way. Take a photo–of a landmark, an odd-shaped stone, or a four-leaf clover, whatever catches your eye!–then tell us what makes this place special or significant in some way. Some spaces may be significant because of their history–whether personal or political. Some may be significant because of their impact–either personal or political.

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of the southern town where I live, but I do love being outside, and I particularly love my backyard! One of my favorite places to be on warm days is on my back porch looking out at the trees and up at the sky, listening to the birds and the wind.

BackyardIt just puts me at ease and clears my mind of the clutter. When I’m in this space it’s like I’m not in Alabama. In fact, where I am doesn’t matter because here I can just be. Nature has a way of being boundless like that, doesn’t it? When you’re surrounded by it, the artificial borders of property and ownership melt away. The wide expanse invites freedom and that’s what this space offers me: freedom.

So, what about you? Where’s your happy space? Where’s your space that inspires?  If you don’t already have one, maybe it’s time to go in search of one! My backyard was an easy find. I think I’ll venture a little further from home and share another inspiring place or space this week…stay tuned!

P.S. Leave a comment about your favorite place and put a link to your blog or social media so we can see what it looks like! I’m anxious to see your inspiring places! I know my fellow blogger, Chandra Lynn, will have something to share! What about you?

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Mayhem Monday: Dreams & Determination!

My niece and nephew graduated this weekend and, of course, I’m super proud of them! They each chose a different path, but both tore through the academic wilderness and emerged unscathed–well, they survived anyway. After all, what’s a war without a few batttle scars?

Victory is the child of preparation and determination.

(Sean Hampton, actor)

They were priveleged with great parents who prepared them for their successes, who equipped them with all of the necessary tools–private schools, summer camps, extra curriculars–as well as the intangibles like love and security.  Yet, Tyler and Greg had to find their own way in college. Mom and Dad couldn’t study for them or finish their assignments. Once the foundation was laid, the building was up to them.

The “Different World” can be a scary place when you’re facing it all alone…

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Funny thing is, a different world is where Greg and Tyler are NOW!

Kids often think that preparation is the time at home.  To an extent that’s true, but what my niece and nephew are about to discover is that they’ve actually been in a safe haven all this time. College is just an extention of home. It’s still a place of preparation as professors and administrators dictate courses and curfews (especially when you attend, as they did, a parochial school affiliated with a highly conservative religious organization.)

Oh yes, the real world is still waiting…

But I’m proud of them, nonetheless.  I know they’ll make it.

We’ve done all we can to prepare them–we, the parents, the aunties, the professors, the surrogates.  Now we’ll watch as they spread their wings, and we’ll hope that the determination that brought them this far will carry them the rest of the way!

And for all the other Tylers and Gregs out there, setting out on your own, just know that life is full of surprises. Your future may or may not turn out the way you envisioned it, but you can be sure that success is possible if you stay open to the many ways it may be manifested. For our Mayhem Monday motiviation, check out Laura Berman Fortgang’s TED Talk on “Finding Your Dream Without Looking at Your Resume!” And I wish you all Godspeed!

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Monday Mayhem: Get Motivated!

I am FIRED UP!

The semester is wrapping up and the summer is almost here! But before we get to the graduations, recitals and weddings that this month promises, I want to talk about the kind of heat that comes–not from the sun–but from within…

I’m fired up about the passion that I’ve seen in my students this semester. They are proving that the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword as they tackle the serious issues that concern them. You may remember that I challenged them to do research projects on topics of their own choosing. My only requirement was that it be a topic for which they are passionate!

I must say, that for the most part these have been the most interesting end-of-the year essays I’ve ever read in a Freshman Composition class! These students took thier jobs seriously and charged ahead into issues they cared about:

  • improving the athletics program at our school
  • questioning the relevance of HBCUs
  • challenging contentions within a religious organization
  • calling for better waste management in the Bahamas
  • and appealing to the officials at Rykers Island to reconsider their use of solitary confinement.

These are just a few of the problems that they tackled and even as they understood the limitations of their power, they also felt the excitement that comes with the possibility that somebody might actually listen to them! Imagine if something they’ve said reaches the ears of someone who can do something?

That is the power of the pen. The power to transform words to life. That’s what motivates me and I’m excited to see the light in their eyes as it seems to have motivated them as well.

There’s another issue that one of my students wrote about and, by coincidence, I discovered this movie short that addresses it.  Watch this powerful performance, then let’s all get FIRED UP! Because words mean nothing if they don’t lead to action.

I’m motivated to do something, how about you?

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Let’s Write!

For the past two days I’ve featured poems from my Creative Writing class inspired by Irene Latham’s Live Your Poem workshop. Today I’d like to invite you to participate in a Live Your Poem activity! It’s simple! Take a look at this image and tell me what word comes to mind.  Don’t say “phone,” but tell me what this image of a phone makes you think about. What do you associate this image with?What memory do you connect it to? What does it represent in your mind?

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Put your word (or words) in the comment box and over the next few days let’s see if we (or I) can put the words together to make a poem! I’ll post the finished product of our “collaborative” poem and you can tell me if we/I capture the essence of the image (yikes!) No pressure…

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Keys

Here’s another installment in the Irene Latham iconic images poetry! Tyhara Tyrell is another one of my lovely and talented students who chose this striking image and wondered about the significance and symbolism of keys.

What do your keys unlock?
do they unlock anything at all?
or do you simply like their antique jingle?
why do you have so many?
must you compartmentalize all aspects of your life

into separate boxes…?

are they tangible expressions of the secrets that you keep?
are they there to comfort your fingers when you feel lost?
do they reassure you of yourself

to know you hold the key,
the answers,
the truth,
knowing that they are yours
to share,
to never be used if so you choose,
to never be touched

by any other fingers other than your own.
They are yours.
your secrets,
and you don’t owe us any answers.
You don’t owe us any keys.

-Tyhara Tyrell

Check out my other creative student, Darlyze’s, poem “Woman Enough” and other creative works here on Books & Coffee!

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