A short sum-up: life was crazy, then I wrapped everything up and headed to South Carolina, so anxious to meet up with all those velvety sisters and mother I adore.

There is nothing like an “MFME” trip with your mom and sisters to buoy you up in every way you can imagine.

I loved feeling the world coming into focus from my fuzzy haze of commotion as we talked and explored and ate and basked in the beauty of the South.

Charleston with all it’s charm:

The Spanish moss catching the sun as it dripped off the trees hanging low riding bikes beneath when we were on Kiwah Island:

The quiet solitude of the beach with pungent air filled with the color of the sunsets, the delight of being able to ride our bikes along the shore, the mirror-wet beach reflecting our sheer enthusiasm.

I love that everyone was right along with me not being able to get enough of that beauty, and got to bask in it every single evening.

But mostly, that I got to be with these women I adore. Who are all so different and yet so united, uniquely teaching me more than I can ever express enough gratitude for.

We missed Kristi and Anita who were unable to make it, but we tried to gather them in through technology when we could.

Before we go on, let’s back up to Charleston for a minute.

A Day in Charleston

We spent the first day there.

I loved having just read “The Invention of Wings,” the stories filling my heart with mourning for how humankind has treated other humankind, their history walking those same Charleston streets with us.

When we went to the market I was drawn to some history books, especially this one that had diagrams of what the treadmill in the Work House looked like that was talked about in the book.

I could go on and on with so many thoughts and feelings walking through that town, but that may have to be a post for another day because there is so much to say.

I think that background made me love that city more, feeling it’s depth and breadth, right along with all the things that were so endearing:

Rainbow Row:

Such an interesting background on that!

Let’s get a better look:


Side porches that looked like this from the front:

Like a front door from the street…

…but that opened up to a side porch to look over beautiful gardens on the side:

loved the blue ceilings that so many of them had

So much history everywhere you turned:

The stained glass windows in that gorgeous church (The Roman Catholic Cathedral of John the Baptist):

The gigantic craggy trees:

The architecture:

The windows and flower boxes:

We stopped at “Angel Oak Tree” on our way to our Airbnb, estimated to be the oldest live oak tree East of the Mississippi, they guess 400-500 years old. Holy moly!

And then we arrived to where we were staying:

Kiwah Island, South Carolina

Oh boy, we could hardly believe our eyes when we rode our bikes over to the beach and found this beauty:

And that we could actually RIDE OUR BIKES ON THE BEACH.

…for miles and miles.

One of my sister-in-laws, Julie, brought her baby along and we all loved loving that boy up:

…Intermixed with the sunset bike rides.

At night we just talk, talk, talked…as well as watched some volleyball. So grateful for technology!

Where we stayed we had bikes lined up to take us on adventures.

…to see gorgeous wildlife:

Alligator crossings:

The marshes (loved having read Where the Crawdads Sing to pull me in):

We also had my sister-in-law Aja who knows a little something about everything and she taught us so much (she also drove our huge van around…love you Aja!!)

Every night we raced back out to bask in the glory of the beach sunset.

I don’t know where Julie and Aja were at this moment, but we had to capture that pink.

I love my mother with all my heart. And all of these women. And Kristi and Anita who were there in spirit.

We lined up yoga mats on the porch in the mornings:

My view from my mat:

We made the drive, through miles and miles of tree-lined streets like this:

To visit the McLeod Plantation:

That incredible Spanish moss drenching everything in it’s glory:

We learned so much, married again with all my thoughts from The Invention of Wings, our guide filled with melancholy power in her voice, the sharp cotton plants, the sobering thought of all those unmarked graves along the river, and the wonder of what to do with all that history.

Please click HERE to read more about the history of that place.

Loved that we had little Simon along for all of it who we all got to snuggle up:

More bike rides:

Dinner and good food and so much talking deep into the night.

Yoga on the beach:

Beach marvels:

On our last night we took our bikes to the very end of the island.

We rode through what is underwater at high tide, and marveled at the world.

Couldn’t get enough.

(Believe me, there are hundreds of other pictures where these ones are coming from!)

It was that night biking on the beach letting myself lag a little bit behind everyone else, I had a special talk with God, my eyes welled up with tears, so filled up with gratitude. For the beauty, for the people, for that experience.

Drenched in all that beauty until the very last drop.

En route to the airport we stopped here:

Cypress Gardens

As if we hadn’t already seen enough beauty…

There is a scene in The Notebook movie that is filmed here, as one of my sister’s pointed out, and it is pretty incredible I have to say.

You can read all about it HERE.

Lots of alligators in that 175-acre swamp:

Aja drove us around and navigated so beautifully (even with all the backseat drivers, ha!), and she knew so much about alligators I figured this was an appropriate pic:


Love that Julie is so easy-going and ready for anything even with baby Simon in tow:

Love them both!

We sure found some incredible Southern food:

…amidst all that beauty.

But most of all, my favorite part was sitting in the family room as we talked through the world, a thick almost over-powering blanket of gratitude that these women are mine.

And this mother is mine.

Love her forever.

Oh there is so much more to say, but I’ll never finish this post if I say it all. And you can thank your lucky stars that I’m quitting now so I don’t drag you through MORE pictures!! haha

Back at home I hugged up my family like nobody’s business. Man alive I feel so lucky to have them too!

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  1. Shawni, I’m so glad you all had that much fun! I also couldn’t stop marvelling at the fact that your mother is doing so well after her knee surgery – she’s had it a while ago, hasn’t she? Great to know you have all enjoyed yourselves so much 🙂

  2. oh GOSH! I live about an hour north on the coast from Charleston, and I’m so glad you guys loved it here so much! And Invention of Wings is one of my favorite “southern” books. Question though, why is riding bikes on the beach so amazing to you guys? Are you not allowed to at beaches you normally visit? Just curious!

    1. I can’t speak for Shawni, but where I lived in Vancouver, BC, the sand was too soft to ride bikes- you’d get entirely eaten before one rotation of the wheel! So you’d have to ride on paths adjacent to the beach itself.

    2. I can’t speak for Shawni, either, but I live in South Florida about 10 miles from the beach and there isn’t much difference between high-tide and low-tide as there is up there. The sand is too soft to ride on and low-tide brings about a foot of hard sand. We go to Hilton Head every summer and riding on the beach during low-tide is my favorite thing to do during the week. Just a nice, relaxing activity as long as it isn’t straight into the wind 😅 Our water is nicer down here but you guys win with the beautiful scenery! Nothing like it.

    3. Also can’t speak for Shawni, but I’m from San Diego and at my local beach you’d be dodging people left and right if you tried riding 7 bikes on the shoreline, even at sunset. I don’t know that there are any specific rules against it, but I’ve never seen anyone do it.

    4. I live in SC too and we’ve visited many beaches all along the east coast. Kiawah is the only one we’ve ever been to that has the perfect sand for biking both tides and in between.

    5. I’ve never been to a beach where the sand is packed well enough for bike riding for that big of an area. It was a whole new concept for me. We loved it!

  3. There is something magical about The Low Country ~ it’s so beautiful. We live in Ohio, but visit Kiawah/Isle of Palms every year. My daughter would like to go to the University of Charleston, and I’m so excited at the thought of that. Thank you for sharing the pictures ~ you really captured the beauty!

  4. I loved both books – Invention of Wings & Where the Crawdads Sing! I’m a southern girl, raised in Atlanta. Love everything about the south!

    PS. I’m the one that believes in KMS with married kids.😉

  5. South Carolina sure looks beautiful, it is high on my list to visit. I really enjoyed reading about your trip, Shawni. As a Canadian, I must say I am particularly interested in how the States (the southern states, in particular) grapple with their history of enslaving people within the tourism industry. How interesting to get a glimpse through your experience. I am even now more interested in going myself. (Also, I say this fully acknowledging Canada’s own racist past and present.) Also: Julie really is game for everything wow! Way to go!

    1. As a true Southerner with a family spanning more than seven generations….. I would use this beautiful quote to reply to you:
      Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.
      The past will always always be part of our history, but we raise our children to believe that all lives matter and all people should be treated with respect and love no matter the color of their skin. Southerners are by far the most gracious, kind, and generous people of any place I have ever lived… and I have lived on six continents. As a southerner …I just wish that we could be defined by who we are now as a people instead of the past. Xxxooo

  6. Thanks so much for these gorgeous photos and such a splendid description of our never-to-be-forgotten adventure. This post will be a treasure for all of seven of us! What a rare opportunity to see the splendor of the South ( even as we agonized over the history of slavery). There is no place on earth quite like the what we found in South Carolina that now holds a warm and special spot in our hearts.

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