Extra Credit Senator Sandy Senn

Hello! If you read my last blog entry then you know that I recently went to an event hosted by Cultivate SC. While I was there I met a woman named Carolee Williams who works as a Lowcountry Field Director for the group Conservation Voters South Carolina. While at Cultivate, Carolee and I discussed the topic of the “ban on bans” bill currently in the South Carolina Senate. We both agreed that this bill was outrageous and, if passed, would mean only bad things for our local environment and South Carolina’s waterways. Carolee told me that the best way to oppose things like this was to contact your local representatives. To which I responded with the usual string of excuses about politicians only listening to money, and Republicans only voting Republican, seeing the rejection letters first hand, and being only one person. I told her my doubts and how I thought it wouldn’t make a difference. Well, it turns out that Carolee Williams had with her some local Charleston postcards with beautiful beaches and grand oak trees on them. She told me, “Just write a short message. Say you support local government and not the ban on bans. You don’t even have to address it! Just write your home address and ill address it to your representative.” It was so easy that I couldn’t say no and this was something that I felt strongly about…so I filled out 2 postcards, one with my address and Carolee’s recommendation for wordage and the second with my parents South Carolina address and a similar message. I dropped the postcards with Carolee and went about my arts and crafts.

About a week or two later, my husband and I get a letter in the mail from the SC Senate. Man, were we sweating! What could they want? What did we do? Turns out it was our State Senator Sandy Senn writing with a response to my postcard. Here we go, I was ready for rejection when I read the following message….



For those of you who cant read the letter, ill retype the key lines.

“Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I agree with you and will oppose this bill. I believe in local governments and their ability to regulate themselves and will advocate for that position.”

WHAT?! Let me retype that one more time for the people in the back. She said, “I Agree With You and Will Oppose This Bill.” I don’t think a letter has ever made me happier. Okay, well it was up there in the surprise and happiness category. My senator not only took the time to respond to a postcard but she agrees with me and will fight for this outcome! Yes! It was an amazing realization that there are good guys and girls out there fighting for you and your voice and the environment and our planet. They are going against the popular vote and saying no to lobbyists with big checks and agendas. They are doing their job so now we need to do ours. They need more from us. More support. More good jobs. More critiques. More communication. More opinions. They need us to step up and speak up. So next time you’re out, grab a postcard or sit down and write a short email. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Make it easy on them. If it weren’t for a stranger in a bar handing me a postcard and offering to do the heavy lifting I would never have known that I am represented by a woman who cares about the same things that I do and I would never have realized how much my opinion matters.

So write a letter to your representative and if you ever find yourself in a bar with Carolee Williams, take the time to talk to her because she might just push you to find your voice.

Cultivate South Carolina

Perhaps you saw the post on Oaks or maybe it escaped your notice.

It was short. Only a few sentences long, and contained an attached flyer for a local happy hour + science + art class called Cultivate SC.


So, if you missed it, or read it but thought maybe next time, I’m here to tell you that you are missing out!


I had never heard of Cultivate SC before I saw the flyer on our class page. Immediately the words happy hour, science, and art stood out. Those subjects are all a good time individually and if you put them together…well I definitely needed to see what this was all about. After my last class on Tuesday, I rushed over to Bowties Speakeasy on Maybank Hwy. The timing was perfect as my last class got out at 5:30pm and Cultivate SC began that night at 6:00 pm. I was alone, didn’t know a single person there, though I kept scanning the crowd for one of your familiar faces. I was nervous, so I did what all sober people at an art/science/happy hour do and I got a drink. I took that drink and bellied up to a bar front of a projector and a basket of trash. That’s right, a basket of trash. While everyone chatted and got to know each other I made friends with the trash. I selected a few pieces that I thought were really special and set them aside to look at until the presentation began. Before too long everyone else was sorting through their trash and a brilliant woman named Marielena Martinez began speaking to us about the Hopi Indians and their Kachina dolls.  The story goes that young Indian boys would carve the little figures from the roots of the cottonwood tree and use the figures to teach younger children about the sprits. The Hopi people believed that these figures each represented a spirit god and that each god had a responsibility (of the harvest, the hunt, the weather, the sun, etc.) They believed that the dolls could communicate the wishes of the people to the sprits whom they resembled. Each doll was then painted and decorated with small trinkets and found objects. After we learned about the Hopi’s Kachina dolls we were each armed with a small wooden base, scissors, hot glue and our baskets of trash to create our own Kachina dolls! This is when things got serious and I went to work drink in hand. I was determined to make an amazing doll that would bring me good grades and peaceful naps. While scavenging for the perfect piece of trash (all the trash had been collected from beaches and neighborhoods by the women hosting the event) I met a woman who introduced herself to me as Carolee Williams. She was super nice, and we got to talking about school and interests. Turns out, she is a low country field director for Conservation Voters of South Carolina. Hello Networking! Carolee and I each finished our Kachina dolls just as our speaker for the night took to the stage. Her name was Kea Payton and as it turns out, she was one of Dr. Beckingham’s Graduate students! Small world. Kea talked to us for about 15 minutes on micro plastics and their dangerous roll in our environment. She reemphasized some of what we had learned in class but she also told us some things that I had not heard before. Did you know that fish like to feed in brackish waters where the salty ocean water meats the fresh river water? They choose these spots because there is an abundance of microscopic food in this mixture of water. It is also here that much of our plastics and micro plastics travel resulting in fish ingestion. Did you also know that the Charleston harbor is the perfect place for this tragic combination of fish and plastic? Charleston’s harbor is protected and filled with brackish water meaning that the issue of microplastics could have a big effect right here at home. Thankfully we now know the impacts plastics can have in our waterways and after this class we know some ways we can work to better protect the environment.

In 2 hours I had made a new friend, learned about the Hopi Indians, learned about micro plastics and had a sculpture to keep that I made from recycled materials.

It was a good night!

If you thought this story was interesting or if you have decided to check out Cultivate SC for yourself you can learn more by clicking on the link below. The next and final class will take place on May 8th at 6pm. Hope to see you there!


PS here is a picture of the Kachina doll I made!



Eating For Pleasure

I recently read an article published online by the journal Scientific American titled,

“How Sugar and Fat Trick the Brian into Wanting More Food”

This article was written on January 1st, 2016 by Ferris Jabr


In summation, the article discusses how human advancements have resulted in an overabundance and availability of food. This, in turn, has led to overconsumption or the habit of eating for pleasure and no longer for survival. This change in the way we obtain food has resulted in a chemical change in our brains. According to the article, this is referred to, by scientists, as Hedonic Hunger. Simply put, hedonic hunger is what we consider to be “cravings.” A strong urge to eat foods even when we are not hungry. This urge in combination with copious amounts of inexpensive and unhealthy food has led to rising rates of obesity and associated health concerns.

If the body is functioning correctly, when we are low on energy hormones are released to create a feeling of hunger. Once we have consumed enough nutrients a different hormone is released to create a feeling of being full. These hormones alternate throughout the day to ensure energy levels remain balanced. The control center that regulates this release of hormones is the hypothalamus.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that rodent research led to a new discovery about food and the brain. The hypothalamus was not the only pathway capable of releasing the hungry/full hormones. Scientist calls it “the reward circuit” and it is the same area that lights up in response to gambling or drug use. This part of the brian is “captivated” by foods high in sugar or fat. This is a problem because the reward circuit is POWERFUL. Studies show that our brain’s reward circuit lights up (releasing large amounts of dopamine) simply by viewing or smelling foods that are high in sugar and fat. The release of dopamine consistently over long periods of time can create dopamine resistance in the body that ultimately results in larger amounts of the sweet or fatty food required to achieve the same pleasure high. On the opposide side of this cycle, we find sharp drop-offs and very low lows. The absence of food that activates the reward circuit, in a person who has routinely consumed it,  can result in feelings of depression, anxiety, and desperation. This often results in the person consuming more unhealthy foods in an attempt to maintain their “sense of well-being.”



This article goes in-depth about the modern relationship that many humans have with food. Now that we no longer have to hunt and gather food to survive we can eat more freely and in much larger amounts than ever before. With so much abundance of food, how do we ensure that we are self-regulating or diets in a way that is healthy but still enjoyable? Much research has been done to answer that question. Today, you can log onto a computer and find resources dedicated to helping you manage your diet through portion control and a balanced diet.

One of my favorite websites for this is choosemyplate.gov

This site has a variety of resources for you to use including a food tracker and lifestyle quizzes.

Let’s be the generation that reverses the trend and lives long, healthy, active lives!


The link for the article is here:


Weeds, Dirt, and Dixie Plantation

Planting Day at Dixie


Did you know that The College of Charleston has a Sustainable Agriculture Program?

Did you know that The College of Charleston’s Sustainable Agriculture Program has three downtown urban gardens AND a two-acre student garden at Dixie Plantation in Ravenelle, SC?

I know what you are thinking, “Where is Ravenelle and why would I ever go there?”

As far as proximity goes, it is a bit of a drive from The College of Charleston’s downtown campus, 18.6 miles to be exact. But the good news is that if you are lacking in a vehicle or in motivation to make the drive then the Sustainable Agriculture Program will happily partner you up with fellow students to carpool out the plantation and trust me it is worth it.

When you first turn on to the dirt road at Dixie Plantation you start to get excited. Big old trees line the driveway and the occasional houses and businesses that were visible before now almost completely disappear. This is where you start to get an idea of the scale of the property, 881 acres, and the remote positioning that preserves the land’s integrity and beauty. About halfway down the driveway, you pass the original gates and the hall of angel oak trees that used to line the path to the original home.

Image result for dixie plantation

A couple turns and gates later you arrive at the student gardens. Complete with a custom gate and more than six beds for planting, the student garden at Dixie Plantation is the perfect environment for any student looking to relieve some stress and grow some vegetables on a historic Charleston property. Lucky for you there is an event at the property almost monthly, weekly during the busy season. At the garden, students focus on growing a variety of leafy greens and vegetables that are harvested and sold to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Hospital. Talk about all the good vibes, your plants get to feed the sick and recovering sea turtles!

Aside from the garden, the Sustainable Agriculture Program hosts workshops and Expos in their newly built research facility on the property. In the past, they have hosted honey bee expos with the Charleston Bee Keeper Association, composting workshops, and other education events. They are also there almost every Saturday if you just have some free time and would like to help in the garden.

That is what my husband and I did! We woke up early, put on some comfortable clothes, and drove out to Dixie Plantation. We met up with Sean Dove and friends on a chilly Saturday morning to participate in the Dixie Planting Day. We were assigned a bed and were provided with tools to clear out weeds and debris from the soil so that it could be planted in the next few days. We were cold and our noses were running but we had so much fun. After we cleared our bed we took a walk through the grounds and learned a bit about the history of the plantation. It was a Saturday morning well spent.


So if you are thinking, “Wow! I want to grow veg for the sea turtles!” or maybe just “I would like to know more about these Sustainable Agriculture programs. ” Then you should reach out to Abbie Cain at caina@cofc.edu and request to be added to the email list.

Hope to see you all out in the garden!