Where My Love Rests in Magnolia Gardens – Original Poem

Still, on a bridge of crimson red, frozen in a moment so sweet, I feel your breath softly caressing my neck
Skin so soft, words so gentle

Surrounded by the echoes of historic elegance and the winds of Southern kisses our lips meet for one compassionate kiss

Magnolia scents

A garden of Eden illuminated by the light of Heaven
A symphony of azaleas, daffodils and camellias blossom all around
A classical harmony of birds whistling the songs of ancestors dining and dancing under the stars

The nature trail, a moving canvas with colors of the rainbow painted all around

I take your hand as the alligators lie still, the heron and egrets stand at attention and the turtles slowly find a place to rest their weary bodies
Tender fingers lock with mine, a simple Southern smile
With a gust of wind I feel us rising high above the majestic trees, floating to the clouds
Gardens below blossoming in the spring air

A home so quiet now, at peace from hundreds of years of harvest
The swamp so green like a carnival of Irish delight

plant1So perfect, this plantation
A symbol of the love between heart and nature
Looking in your eyes, I feel safe
As we glide down to the bosom of this Magnolia estate, I see a blanket embroidered with the word “home”

Come with me my angel, walk through history, lay homage to the sculptures and smell the flowers tickling our legs as we find our place

Let us rest, my love under this enchanted tree as the nectar of the gardens allure keep us warm

Keys To Workplace Happiness – Are you satisfied with your career Charleston?

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Do you wake up on Monday morning dreading the week ahead or do you pop out of bed with a feeling of zest and vigor? Do you have the same sense of pride about your company that you do with your dog or children? Can you walk away at the end of the work day on Friday and know you made a difference?

These are all vital questions to ask yourself when you evaluate your current company, and the role you play in its success. Your job and your company should be a direct extension of yourself and your personality.

Ask yourself this, what type of personality do you have? What type of culture do you thrive in? What type of workforce are you compatible with?

Some have a start-up mentality while others thrive in a conservative structured environment.

Here is where we stand, when we look back at our lives while we sit on the rocking chair, sipping tea and watching the grass grow, we are going to come to the realization that over 40 years of our lives were spent working. Hopefully, those will be fond memories. Do you really want to look back in regret? I think not.

Finding Workplace Happiness – The Quiz

That is easy. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and see what brings you personal happiness, then you can easily translate that into the workplace.

Let us start with a self evaluation quiz.

Get your number two pencil and a piece of paper…..

1. Do you play well with others in a teaming environment or run as a well oiled individual contributor?
2. Are you an innovator or a status quo provider?
3. Do you thrive in a small family oriented setting or a large global entity?
4. Do you like to create or be told what to do?
5. Are you passionate about your company’s mission, products and services and vision for the future?
6. Do you feel your are maximizing your strengths in your current role?
7. Do you have room to breath and grow?
8. Can you walk away each day with a feeling of fulfillment?
9. Do you feel your company is an extension of yourself?
10. Do you feel like you will look back at your time spent and smile?

Each of these questions take a critical look at yourself and your perceptions of your relationship with your company. Based on the responses you will begin to understand your feelings about your company and its impact on you emotionally. You are in a marriage or a binding contract to be with your company through “better or worse, richer or poorer.” With any marriage there will of course be compromise, but in the end, it is about personal happiness, enrichment and fulfillment.

How do I ensure I am finding happiness in the workplace?

I know this is difficult to say during a recession that will have a sustained lasting affect for a number of years to come, but one should never stay with a company that is making them feel discouraged, emotionally drained or upset. Those negative feelings carry past the workplace into the home and the social setting. Continuous flow of negative energy could have a detrimental affect on physical and mental health. None of us want that. If you are truly unhappy, actively find a home that will turn that frown upside down.

Surround yourself with people that share the same positive energy as you. That includes personality, demeanor, passion, drive, ambition and challenge. As human beings we are bread with the pursuit of making a difference in the world. Your job should be no different. You need to know that you are making a significant contribution to your own development and to the success of the company. That is vital.

Treat each day like a new adventure. Keeping it fresh, spontaneous and zesty will make any career experience worthwhile.

Be expressive. The culture of a company is built on the brand, the products and service, the infrastructure but most importantly the human capital; You!

You are the ultimate foundation of everything your company stands for. You can look at yourself in the mirror and smile. Can you look at your company in the mirror and do the same? I hope the answer is yes. It is a part of you.

Never stop learning! Work is like school, a platform of learning. As we continue to grow, we continue to learn. Each day, each week, each month should be filled with moments of learning and growing.

Be true to yourself. Don’t hide behind a paycheck or a false sense of responsibility. If you are not having all your needs met, don’t stay with company. Remember earlier, we made the metaphor that you and your company are a marriage. Would you stay in an unhealthy marriage? I hope not.

There you have it, some of the keys to workplace happiness.

Find a company that makes you feel alive and cherishes each and every moment. That will be the one that will bring you the greatest personal happiness and sense of achievement.

Threshold Repertory Theatre’s Presentation of Bent shares a message of love

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon. Editor: Loretta Jophlin. Photo by Mystic Productions

Max, played exquisitely by Patrick Arnheim described, “I kissed her soft dead lips, her breasts just beginning” as he proved to a group of drunk SS soldiers he wasn’t “queer” on a train to the concentration camp of Dachau. ?Bent is a story of transformation and emotional connection in a period of time deemed so horrific that survivors have spent their lives hiding behind the nightmares, trying desperately to forget the moral compromises needed to stay alive.? This two act play tells stories which culminate into an enlightened moment of love in a place where souls are lost and the choice between life and death is clouded by insanity.

With a delicate use of lighting and shadows, a psychedelic cinematic themes and music, 1930’s Berlin was recreated to set the mood for an incredible story of survival and love.? To many, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the unspeakable acts of torture, mass genocide, humiliation, emotional isolation and sacrifice of the human spirit by the Nazi Party is a period of history we can never forget and one so difficult to re-create. With a flash of courage, Director Jay Danner, brought the words of Martin Sherman’s Bent, to life.

Bent centers around Max, played by exquisitely by Patrick Arnheim.? Max is a carefree playboy, whose dependance on alcohol and drugs, loose men and living by the seat of his pants attitude is all he ever knew until the day his world changed.? With two shots fired and years on the run, Max and his partner Rudy fought every day for survival.? In an evolutionary transformation, Max’s life and everyone he knows change drastically over the course of the following three years.? From a tiny one bedroom apartment to the isolation of a dirt floor and electrified fence, Max lost everyone and everything, including his will to live.

What he discovered after is the story of Bent.

Breaching such difficult subject matter was a challenge for this production.? During strategically placed moments throughout, subtle lines of humor were unleashed to provide emotional relief to the audience.? These penetrating innuendos and jokes helped bring a sane balance to the actors and comfort to the crowd.

Photo by Mystic Productions

Much like Max, the other characters of Bent were flawed. Rudy, played by Brandon Martin, Uncle Freddy, played by Nat Jones and Horst played with riveting emotion by Randy Risher, showed imperfections shaping their unique personalities.? Ultimately, they were all transformed.

People of Jewish faith and culture and those who identify with the gay community were pertinent and polarizing parts of the historic make-up of the period, and 75 years later, these two groups remain marginalized.?Today, we fight racial and religious injustice and moral objection to certain lifestyles.? We continue to fight prejudice and hate.? It is a war that will not end, but we must keep fighting.

Therein lies the message of Bent that the audience will take away.? Love sees no color, no creed, no gender, no religion.? Love is an objective experience we cannot escape.? Once it grabs a hold, we are taken to places we cannot control. . . places of happiness. . .places of security.

In one very poignant moment, Max finds serenity in the gentle but worn arms of Horst.? Surrounded by guns, torture and hatred, he found love.

Ticket Information for Bent


Just South of Heaven? Company appropriately launches in Charleston, South Carolina

Media Release:? Just South of Heaven? Company appropriately launches in Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina March 21, 2016:? Just South of Heaven Co. – For much of the world, Charleston truly is Just South of Heaven so, fittingly, it has become home to a new company of the same name.

The Just South of Heaven company has just launched their online business with a Kickstarter campaign.

Just South of Heaven Co. is an apparel and accessories company that produces products that allow you to show off the places that inspire you. Their first offering is devoted to their love of Charleston and will be followed by designs highlighting the places that inspire others.

About Just South of Heaven Company

Just South Of Heaven Co. is what some might call a “lifestyle” brand that provides people with awesome Apparel & Accessories. We prefer to think of it as a movement. You see, JSOH Co. was created so that you and I could share with the world what we love and what inspires us. Whether it’s your “home” or not, everyone has their own Just South Of Heaven and we want you to be able to share yours with the world

Jim Lowery, CEO
Just South of Heaven Co.


Luckhaus & Brubaker Sweets & Treats: Bringing Elegance and Fun to Charleston Sweets

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Last week, I stopped into Luckhaus & Brubaker for a thank you gift.? After spending a quick moment browsing the inventory and taking in the indulgent smells of chocolate, coconut and peanut butter, I ordered a coconut macaroon with chocolate ganache, Key Lime truffle and Baileys truffle.? They were beautifully wrapped in a clear plastic bag with a red ribbon and a brown logo sticker.? A simple and elegant thank you gift for a generous favor.

Our love for Luckhaus & Brubaker began over a year ago when I was spending a Friday morning and afternoon celebrating the birthday of my dear friend Shannon.? Typically, birthdays are days of festivities and celebration, but for Shannon, this day also holds a bittersweet memory.? Per her request, the morning and afternoon would be just her and I.? Naturally, you need cake, so we bought a bottle of champagne and orange juice, went to Luckhaus & Brubaker and ordered the Coconut Vanilla Cake.? As we sat outside at 11 AM on a Friday morning drinking mimosas and enjoying each savory bite of this cake, we knew we found something special.

Picture a mini Willy Wonka factory, where visions of chocolate lollipops, croissants, truffles, pies, and tarts dance in your head.? All around, life size animals built from the sweetest things on Earth, welcome you with a smile.? This is that little end of the puzzle piece of heaven called Luckhaus and Brubaker.

Each visit, you are greeted with a smile and laid back, enjoy your experience welcome.? No pressure here.? Take in the smells, look all around and ask us if you need assistance.? Each visit is a one of a kind.? One day may be the fruit tart or the Grand Marnier truffle.? Maybe a fruit filled croissant or Tiramisu.? Sometimes you go in for a cupcake or cinnamon roll and walk out with a homemade dog treat for your puppy and a chocolate covered pretzel for the little one.? Make sure you sneak a chocolate bar in for later.

As a self proclaimed anti-sweets person, I am taken back by the precision detail and explosiveness of the products.? A single 3 inch truffle can last five or more bites because you are offered a wealth of decadent flavor with each and every bite.

One of the more remarkable parts of my visits is the selfless feeling of guilt and generosity all wrapped up in one.? With treats for children, adults or elegant affairs as well as baked goods and coffee, you can treat yourself, buy a few gifts or make the children smile all in one visit.

We cannot say enough about the incredible prices.? With options to meet all budgets, the fine staff of L&B want you to savor your experience without emptying your wallet.

Their shop extends to your home with an amazing menu of cakes, tarts, pies, cupcakes, cookies and homemade ice cream to meet all your catering needs.

Homemade ice cream
Homemade ice cream

Come in for the smells, walk around and enjoy the museum of chocolate statues and leave with a feeling of satisfaction and warmth.? Luckhaus & Brubaker is located at 1939 Maybank Highway, James Island, SC and note, they are closed on Mondays.


Must Do’s When Visiting Charleston, SC for the First Time

By Minta Pavliscsak
By Minta Pavliscsak

With Charleston appearing on many “Best Of” lists over the past few years, it’s no secret just how great of a city it is. Locals and visitors alike will be quick to tell you just how much they love the city and give you unsolicited recommendations of what to do while you visit. Charleston has a lot to offer, so how do you narrow it down if you only have a weekend here? We have put together a list of “Must Do’s” for you first time visitors. These things won’t take up very much of your time and you won’t find these in any brochure at the Visitor Center.

Must Do’s When Visiting Charleston for the First Time:

  • Buy a Palmetto rose. Scattered throughout downtown, local children will sell roses freshly made from palm leaves. You can also find them for sale at the market. They are even beautiful after they have dried out.
  • Pet a horse on the market. If not on a tour, you will find the carriages lined up along Anson Street on the market. They are super friendly and the tour guides are happy to have people stop by and say hi.
  • Taste honey at Savannah Bee Company. Located on King Street, this store is wall to wall honey and honey products.
  • Wander down a downtown alley. We have several throughout the peninsula. They are quaint, most are cobblestone, and all are full of beautiful history. (Stoll’s Alley)
  • Cheers to your vacation with a Bacon Bloody Mary at Eli’s Table. You won’t be disappointed!
  • Relax on the swings at Waterfront Park. You may have to wait for one to open up on the busy days, but the wait is well worth it.
  • Take a selfie in front of the Pineapple Fountain. This iconic fountain is a great spot to dip your toes and the kids enjoy splashing in the base.

There you have it. The “Must Do’s” during your first time visiting the Holy City. If you have been here and have missed something on the list, come back! If you haven’t been here yet, what are you waiting for?!

Champagne with Friends: Thomas Champagne shares his Charleston music experience

By David McNamara
By David McNamara

Sat barefoot in jeans and a loose shirt in the corner of Mt Pleasant’s Dog and Duck, local musician Thomas Champagne could easily trick you into thinking you were somewhere else. His unique acoustic style and unusual syncopation fuses a myriad of genres, from his country and Cajun roots to reggae and Caribbean influences.

At times there is a pendulous sense Champagne’s innovative renditions of familiar songs will trip and fall. But while you’re not sure where you’re being led, there’s bearing and assurance the journey is somewhere positive and fun.

“The number one thing I want to convey is a positive message, but it’s the ability to catch people off guard I think that is the biggest present I can give to any audience – because that’s how you amaze somebody.”

Champagne achieves this with ease so when he segues into an original song it’s often overlooked because his sets flow seamlessly together. However, this didn’t come naturally to Champagne when he first arrived in Charleston from Austin, Texas. It was a challenge he says he had to grow into and work hard at developing.

“The biggest difference coming to Charleston is it’s primarily a tourist capital. While the thriving tourist scene here is awesome for the economy it can take over a musician’s directive by having to play more cover songs than one would normally like, or have to do.”

Champagne says he embraced the twist to what he was used to because he found ways to present cover songs in his own style. Being patient with this change has seen him over the past summer receive a great deal of encouragement and positive feedback.

The result is a breezy and soulful marriage of sunburnt earth, salt and the sea which could have you convinced you were in some surf shack on the Californian coast. However, this is just one side to the constantly evolving and innovative artist, which began to emerge when Champagne relocated from Austin to Charleston.

“I’ve always been Champagne with Friends and I’ve had over 100 different friends on stage. But when I left Austin I stepped away from having a band back me up and I now play all these solo shows, which I wasn’t doing before. It definitely made me stronger as a musician and as a person by having to say, ‘Hey guys, I love you – I miss you, but I got to go and step into this by myself.’ And I think here in Charleston is the first time Thomas Champagne came out – with friends as my audience.”

Born and raised in Beaumont, Texas from strong Louisiana ancestry, Champagne is proud of his heritage.? He also appreciates the truth and irony that comes with journeying into the unfamiliar, admitting with a chuckle that he became more of a Texan by leaving Texas. Champagnes sees the move to Charleston as another chapter, both as a solo artist and his recent full-time commitment to his profession.

Two weeks prior to the Dog and Duck I first saw Champagne with Friends by accident when I entered the Blind Tiger on Broad Street on a Friday night to catch up with my own friends.? With two local musicians in support they belted out an infectious breed of classic rock tunes, and made the old floorboards at the Blind Tiger pay the price as everyone got caught in the rhythm and groove.

For me it evoked the great Aussie legacy of pub rock offered any weekend night in a beachside bar on the Indian Ocean in Perth, or a St Kilda pub in Melbourne. Continuing this prominent theme of evolution is the rotation of local musicians Champagne uses at every show.

“When you see Champagne with Friends it’s always different players so while you may have seen the show before it’ll be different every time.”

Champagne cites the generosity of Charleston’s music community as being invaluable in helping him gather new musicians to play with when he first arrived.

“The openness of the musical community here is awesome first of all. It’s nowhere near as competitive as it is in Austin, Texas which has advantages and disadvantages. Competition is a primary way to motivate an artist and make them grow, but it can also hurt you in the end.”

Not that Thomas Champagne is leaving Charleston anytime soon, but as someone not prone to taking time off he’s looking forward to opening up a new chapter in his artistic journey. After recording his last album with producer and former Hootie and the Blowfish guitarist, Mark Bryan, Champagne is due to head back to Austin to record another album at the end of the year. He then plans to tour the ski resorts in the Rockies before heading home to Charleston.

*Originally written in 2015

Runway Shines: Visual Look at Day One of the 10th Annual Charleston Fashion Week

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Last evening, amongst the tents and lights and models, Marion Square converted into a mini mecca of the fashion industry with the kick off of the 10th annual Charleston Fashion Week.? With a week of events guaranteed to outshine previous years from March 15-19, fans, designers, models, make up artists, musicians, dancers and even a hedgehog are in for a week of incredible memories and a future of great fashion talents.

Day one introduced the audience to emerging designers Destani Hoffman, JD Noble, Storm Dorris and Elias Gurrola who each brought a unique flavor to the runway.? Donning from Alabama, Georgia and New York, this years emerging designers have stretched the limits of the East Coast.

The evening festivities sparkled with local business showcases from Bits of Lace Fine Lingerie, Shoes on King, Taxidermy, tres Carmen Boutique and 7Gypsy.? With show stopping musical choreography from ritual chant to the iconic Whitney Houston, the first evening was deemed a tremendous success.

We invite you to experience the memories of the first of many incredible nights of Charleston Fashion Week with some visual memories of last evening.

Kick-ass dance number to open the night on the runway

Spectacular lighting to compliment the dance number

Elegant attire was in full gear

Creative designs on display.

Sometimes you got to hit the beat.

Class and style

Professionalism to the tee

Passion and focus

Designs of Elias Gurrola

Representing the head gear

All eyes on the models

Full line up of beauty

Overall, the staff, models, volunteers, caterers, bar staff, vendors and city officials created an atmosphere of energy.? The showcase of talent in the Charleston community came prepared and showed once again how passion, creativity, motivation and a little dreaming can make any fantasy a reality.

None of this would not be possible were it not for the visual of founder and MC Ayoka Lucas who has brought now a decade long tradition to Charleston.

If you would like to be part of Charleston Fashion Week, tickets are still available – Click Here

National Abstract Artist Cindy Walton on display at Ellis-Nicholson Gallery

By Minta Pavliscsak

There is no shortage of art galleries in downtown Charleston. Even if you are not in the market for new art, it is always a treat to wander in the galleries and check out what they have. You will find very talented local -and not so local- works scattered along the walls, and a friendly face to greet you happy that you came in to share their passion. I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of these amazing artists.





Photos courtesy of Cindy Walton

Cindy Walton recently celebrated her opening of “Letters to the Land and Sea” during the Charleston Gallery?Association’s March ArtWalk at the Ellis-Nicholson Gallery on Broad Street. Cindy’s work is, not only beautiful, but unique as well given that she uses a medium that is not typically seen among the art in Charleston. She uses cold wax on wood panels to create her art. Heavily inspired by landscapes, Cindy’s abstract work each creates a sense of connection with the elements.

Asheville, North Carolina is where Cindy calls home. You can find her working on her craft at Wedge Studio. She also teaches throughout the year in various cities across the nation. Currently her works are in five formal galleries. Cindy’s exhibit at the Ellis-Nicholson Gallery runs through March 30th. Be sure to stop in and see “Letters to the Land and Sea”. For more of her work, please visit her website www.cindywalton.com and look for Cindy Walton Fine Art on Facebook.

“Dialogue with the Land”




“Water Fall”



Obscure and Silly Landmarks of Folly Beach – Part II

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Nowhere else in this fine land of ours can you walk down any residential home and see a carnival of creativity flowing in all directions.? Each home a unique entity, each entrance way a gateway to another world and each experience different from the last.? Folly Beach is a safe haven; a place whose only rule is that there are no rules.? The locals live by a single code:? Be kind to one another and be there for each other.? It is a simple rule, but one that governs this coastal culture with charm, loyalty and kindness.

We love our journeys through the secret corridors where life and fantasy become one.

Now, it is time to take you on a sequel journey to more obscure and silly landmarks of Folly Beach.? Put on your favorite technicolor hat and 3D sunglasses and enjoy another ride through the wonder of Folly.

Step onto Bourbon Street and feel the warmth of a warm Louisiana Night while listening to jazz on the Bayou.

Something wicked this way comes.? Beware the Alligator entrance.

The greenhouse is flourishing with fresh produce for all the eye can see.

The mermaid clubhouse

Don’t look too closely; her beauty can kill.

Beware what goes on through those gates.? This home is guarded by the passionate bearer of the globe of prediction.

The sculpture garden awaits.

Welcome to the seahorse house.

For all your Sesame Street fans, here is the Snuffleupagus tree

Remember:? Time Began in a Garden

Here lies the Wild’s Brigade Cemetary

We hope you enjoyed the newest journey through the wild unknown fantasy land of Folly Beach.? Come back soon for another storied adventure.