Experience Eclipse 2017 in Charleston, SC

Planning to live in the “Dark Side of the Moon” for a couple of minutes? Interested in the “Moonshadow” live?

If you’re planning on taking a trip to a U.S. city, to take part in the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse experience, consider communities surrounding larger cities. Charleston is awesome. But, several communities surrounding Charleston, SC may be an easier bet to reach, to hunker in, and to explore. Among the sweetest is the Town of Summerville.

It’s estimated that, conservatively, the greater Charleston area will host between 60,000-80,000 visitors. Yet there have been several reports estimating over a million. According to College of Charleston Physics Professor, Dr. Chris Fragile, “This will be the most viewed eclipse in human history.” The South Carolina coast is the final place to view the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse before it heads out to cast the moon’s shadow onto the Atlantic Ocean.

The last coast-to-coast total eclipse to traverse North America was 99 years ago, in 1918. The next time the phenomonen of a total eclipse crossing our continent will occur is 35 years from now, in 2052. Why so seldom? The moon orbits at a five degree tilt. The earth and sun each spin on a separate axis. And, let’s face it; 70% of the earth is ocean, so our waters are much more likely to experience a total eclipse than we are.


Get Special Eye Protection

One cannot look directly into the sun on any occasion, and partial blockage of the sun does not affect its intensity, nor affect the ability to prevent eye damage. Sunglasses with UV protection will simply not cut it this time. Unless you have a welder’s shield collecting dust in your garage, you’ll need to invest a buck or two in a pair of eclipse glasses. When you wear a pair of eclipse glasses in a lit room, they will block out all light. Put them on to watch the sun and moon converge. Wear them, looking directly at the sun safely, to view the eclipse until totality. Only then, will you be able to remove the glasses briefly, to see the outer glow. Once the sun begins to once again emerge, you’ll need to don the glasses until you’re ready to, again, view the rest of the world around you.

You may also be fortunate enough to see “shadow bands,” explains Dr. Fragile. “They’re similar to the funny, squiggly shadows that appear at the bottom of the swimming pool,” he says. He suggests laying a white bedsheet on the ground to best view shadow bands.

Defer to your iPhone Camera

The amount of heat entering the lens and body of your 35mm SLR camera may be damaging. But iPhone cameras are designed to adjust to the amount of ambient light, making it safe to use. It may be time to purchase an iPhone tripod, or determine how to securely attach your selfie stick to your tripod.

Even through a telescope, a dense mylar filer is a necessity.

Plan for Chilly Weather

Yes, on August 21st, you are heading directly into the scorching summer heat of South Carolina. But you will need to pack a few items to keep you warm. During a total eclipse, the temperature will drop and the winds may pick up. Charleston Southern University Professor of math and physics, Dr. Fred Worthy, says that he experienced a partial eclipse during which the temperature plummeted by 30 degrees.

Escape the Crowded Interstate by Checking Out a Surrounding Community

I’m biased, because I lived in Summerville, S.C. for 12 years, and it remains my “home,” whether or not I live there. Totality  in Summerville will be experienced for between one minute and 40 seconds to two minutes. For additional eclipse stats, check out this link.  Summerville Dream has a great microsite highlighting the Eclipse happenings around Summerville. And, Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site will host events throught the weekend preceding the Eclipse. Check out the lineup at…

Summerville, S.C., The Birthplace of Sweet Tea, may be easier to access, because of its proximity to I-26, the main conduit into Charleston. One you’re settled in Summerville, check out the many things to do in the area both before and after the eclipse. Go to to research and pre-plan your extra time. Visit private merchants in and around the quaint town square reminiscent of small southern towns, indulge in a game of golf, or take a walking tour of the town’s permanent sculpture collection – plus find Sculpture in the South’s more than twenty life-sized bronzes of birds perched on balconies, windowsills, shop signs and rooftops.

Also check out Summerville DREAM, the Summerville Visitor’s Center and Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce at 402 N. Main Street for recommendations on events, restaurants, or even that emergency auto mechanic you are not pre-planning to meet.

Buy the T-Shirt! The Greater Summerville/Dorchester Chamber of Commerce is selling a “totality awesome” glow-in-the dark T-Shirt. And a portion of the proceeds benefit the organization’s scholarship fund. You can pre-order your shirt and pick up at the Chamber – or stop in to purchase in person.

Need more information on visiting South Carolina? Check out








Send Letters to the Universe

Consider something like this….

Dear Mother Nature,
Please do not send cloud cover on August 21, 2017!
With all due respect,


Adventures in Navigating a Ropes Course


Not far from the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, the 1,300 acre U. S. National Whitewater Center provides family-friendly fun for all ages and fitness levels.  This amazing outdoor facility offers whitewater rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding, rock climbing, ropes courses, zip lines, and more than 30 miles of mountain biking trails.  On a Thanksgiving weekend, my family embarked on  a family endeavor to mitigate the potentially damaging intake of holiday food.

Our quest began as a desire to zipline, but after comparing ticket bundle options, my brother,  sister-in-law, nephew and myself all opted to encompass the precursory adventure of a ropes course. Learning the ropes always means embracing a new adventure,  but re-learning how to walk again, afterward, was not on our agenda.

Although you have an a la carte  choice to zipline only, my family chose to heed the advice of Johnny Cash and “walk the line.” The first time stepping from a solid platform to unstable rope lines is intimidating, but there’s a lot to hang onto on that first pass across the treetops. What lie ahead  – a single line with a single overhead rope – was a true test of balance, muscle, and confidence. I did well at the start, but on the final stretch, I faced failure. And had to laugh.

As I hung there dangling in the trees, awaiting rescue by a muscular, fair-haired knight, I grinned, shook my head and silently kicked myself for listening to the advice change my footing to side step. While this was the way THEY successfully navigated the tightrope, I took a spill to oblivion.  In retrospect, I should have walked that line the way this aged-out gymnast would conquer a painted-on parking lot line; with previously trained turned-out feet, and shoulders held high. Why did I not do that?

The camaraderie and encouragement felt through a day of ropes course teamwork is something all families should take a moment to experience. And, our inability to walk up and down steps the following day proved to  be an unexpected secondary team-building experience.But laughter ensued. We endured both the challenges and the aftermath – together.

Whether you are near Charlotte, North Carolina or plan a visit to the area, I highly recommend an excursion to this fabulous family playground. And, check out their calendar of special events. Why not challenge your family to a fun run or watch a competition from the water’s edge?


5 Reasons Why You (Or Your Kid) Should Study Abroad

While I was working on my undergraduate degree I decided to do a semester abroad. For me, the possibility to travel while studying was something that appealed from day one. After my experience, I never miss a chance to tell students or parents why they should think about taking advantage of the opportunity.

Packed and ready for my study abroad.

Credits Transfer – Many universities offer their own affiliated study abroad options. These programs include pre-approved classes, arranged lodging, and group incentives. They are extra convenient because credits automatically appear on your official transcript without the need for additional paperwork! My own study abroad in London was an affiliated program which made everything very easy. If your college doesn’t have their own programs, you’ll just need to apply for a credit transfer, but I do recommend checking ahead to time to make sure everything will be accepted.

Financial Aid Counts – Your FAFSA and other student aid will contribute toward the cost. Just like with credit transfer there’s a bit of paperwork, but its definitely worth it in the end. Many study abroad programs are comparable in cost to in-state tuition, so if you’re an out-of-state student like I was, this meant I paid significantly less for a semester in UK than I would have paid to study on my US campus! Additionally, if you are participating in your school’s own program, any scholarships you may have will also work toward the total cost.

Internship Opportunities
 – Some study abroad programs offer the opportunity for an internship for credit as one of their classes.  The one I participated in assisted with finding a placement related to my degree program which meant that I got work experience and a nice little line on my resume, which I believe was invaluable! My placement was unpaid, but one of my roommates received a small stipend with hers, which I know she found invaluable. School credit plus international internship equals awesome!

Live Like a Local – I shared a university arranged studio flat with two other girls from my school. We shopped at the local Tesco, took turns cooking, and made sure to give each other space when we needed “alone time.” I took public transit to class and work and learned  my way around the neighborhood. The experience taught me that I was strong, capable, and could live anywhere. By the time we left I felt completely at home in London.

Flatmates visit the Acropolis in Greece.

Adventure – The program I participated in offered a few sanctioned outings to nearby places like Bath, but every spare penny I had went to further exploration. Besides exploring the museums and parks in the city, the proximity of the UK opened up a lot of options. One of my flatmates had a friend who was doing a study abroad at the same time in Dublin and we took a trip to visit her. We also put our heads together and made trips to Greece, France, and Germany. (My flatmates also went to Italy, but I had run out of money. I’ll get there one day!)

One bonus feature would definitely be Scouting for the Future. While I was in the UK, I arranged a visit with a professor at a nearby university for a masters program I was interested in. The chance to meet with them and tour the campus is definitely why I chose to return for my advanced degree studies. I’m certain that visit is a key reason I received an International scholarship to attend that school.

A study abroad may not be for everyone, but its definitely worth a consideration. After all, where else can you get college credit and use financial aid to explore the world?


Have you done a study abroad? What else would you add?


Holiday Season Opener

img_1522Food. Family. And festivities. While many of us recognize Thanksgiving as the start of the holiday season, families who celebrated Diá do los Muertos are ahead of the game. Unlike the ghosts, ghouls and shenanigans of Halloween, the Day of the Dead is a meaningful, cultural spiritual celebration. In Mexico and Latin America, it’s a time to pay homage to the souls of those lost; to eat Pan de Muerto, to make sugar skulls and to engage in a vivid celebration of vibrant lives.

This year, I took a road trip to visit Decatur, GA, where  Li and I bagged a loaf of  temptatious, glossy-egg-washed-crust Pan de Muerto. Decautur, a hip little town, is a unique place to visit, with obscure little finds like La Calavera Bakery. A single step through the front door takes you from Diá do los Muertos observer to participant. We lingered over coffee, simply absorbing the festive holiday vibe.


But what’s important to take from this — is that, right around the corner from all of us is a “travel” destination that provides cultural insight. As the holidays continue to present opportunities for new experiences, take a moment to notice how those in your local community celebrate. Say yes to invitations and embark on new adventures. Learn more about your friends’ family traditions. Many celebrations are based on our own cultural roots.

This season, give your family the gift of enrichment. Celebrate Hanukkah. Visit a church service different from your own. Together, serve a meal at a shelter. Expand your world view from your own back yard.

And, next year, consider joining us in starting early. Gather with friends and family to celebrate Diá do los Muertos. Follow these links to learn more about Day of the Dead traditions.

Make sugar skulls:

Bake Pan de Muerto:




Long Distance Relationships

Long distance relationships. Yup, the dreaded time consuming, exhausting, frustrating exercise that is having a connection to someone living in a different city, state, or country.  This is me with nearly everyone: friends, family, and the significant other. There are tons of websites with lists of tips for what you can do to maintain a relationship but they really all boil down to one thing: communication.


It’s our interactions that really make the difference. Its the words, inside jokes, voice, and clarity.  It doesn’t have to be everyday, it doesn’t have to be for an hour, its just the action of reaching out.  Just make sure that both parties are on the same page of expectations.

When you travel this becomes the act of communication becomes even more complicated. Take the time to account for the technology of a country. Is there wifi? Can you still use your phone or laptop using an internet signal? Do you need a SIM card or another phone?  What apps work in both locations?

Good luck, fellow traveler. I’m off to update my messenger app, sign in on Skype, and check my old iPhone for international capabilities.


Motherly Influencers

As I wait to depart Chicago O’Hare, I have the time to reflect on my Labor Day weekend streak of visits to my past life. Of significant importance was my ability to visit, even if briefly, three women who were mom-like at different times of my life. I am smiling, inside and out, after my visits with these amazing 80+ year-old women.

Debbie is by far my oldest friend. Over 50 years ago I spent almost ten years in and out of her home, where her mom Barbara ruled her roost of six kids. Now in assisted living, she grinned as she said my first and last name, the same way she’d always said it. It didn’t take long to realize that Labor Day weekend was the Jerry Lewis telethon weekend, during which we always held a fundraising “carnival” in Barbara’s backyard. She chuckled as she described the games and I tapped into long-dormant brain cells about what a joy it was to hold this event for the neighborhood and raise money to donate to this worthy cause. Today I had an ah-ha moment that Barbara, a single mom with six kids, is the one who taught me about giving. Choosing fun games, going door to door to collect prizes, and working in the hot sun was a lesson in selflessness that influenced my life-long dedication to volunteerism in support of charitable efforts. I will forever remember that Barbara’s favorite game was throwing wet sponges in the faces of neighborhood terrors peering through the head-hole cut into the sheet hung from the clothesline.

I met Cindy when I was 15. I spent countless hours at her parents’ home over my teens and early 20s. And I always loved Mrs. T. When Cindy suggested I meet she, and perhaps her 84 year-old mom, for a late afternoon Saturday swim, I jumped at the chance. I marveled at Delores’ ability to swim laps at her age, while Cindy and I monopolized a lane with kick boards and conversation. I turned, and my jaw dropped. Delores was jumping out of the water, shooting buckets-and sinking them. She explained that basketball was “very good exercise.” Cindy and I joined her and entertained a group of elementary-school-aged boys who asked permission to videotape Delores. She sunk it, of course, as I watched with complete admiration. We later had dinner together like three long-time girlfriends. What an amazing woman.

Finally, I must tell you about my original mother-in-law Joan. My high-school-sweetheart marriage ended 30 years ago, but my love for his parents remained. I grabbed a bottle of wine and went to see Joan, who’s now 83 years old. She’s sold her longtime home and is moving into a senior apartment environment. I thought she might be a bit frail, but was I wrong! She is the whipper-snapper she always was. But moving day was two days away and a corkscrew non-existent. A couple of mini-screwdrivers and MacGuyver me had the cork out. As we sipped Chardonnay out of the available plastic beer cups, I marveled at her attitude and abilities, and I knew why she’d had such influence on me. She starts bowling again this week-go Joan!

Barbara, Delores, and Joan–you ROCK!