Replacing What’s Rotten



My handiwork…

I discovered that a few sections of the back fence were rotting. The boards disintegrating with a touch, despite the fact they looked perfectly fine from a distance.  It’s mostly my fault. I had been trowing yard debris over to the wooded area of my property thinking I was composting Mother Nature’s way. Unfortunately, most of my pitches had landed too close to the boards and over time a layer of dirt and debris had sat up against the boards causing the rot.

So I have begun the replacement process, thirty-seven down and twelve to go to address the most critical areas. There will be more in the future for those not so critical this moment and the fact I could not get a matching style unless I bought boards that would require me to cut off two feet from each board, which seemed a bit wasteful to me.

As I pried out nails and knocked out rotting boards I had plenty of time to reflect. True to the nature of my mind I saw a life lesson in my current task. Rot is not just a condition for wood. It is a condition of life. If we don’t maintain, refresh or even replace what’s rotten in our personal lives and in our society, then it will decay and fall apart.

Do you have a toxic, read rotten, relationship that is holding you back? Are you uninspired in your work life? Is your diet fresh? Do you maintain yourself with exercise? Do you give your mind new ideas to ponder? Does our society need changes to make it better, stronger and safer for all?  Dare I say could Congress stand a removal of some rotten wood with replacements who are fresh and new?

I know I can identify several areas in my life I could use a refresh and in some instances a complete replacement. Like the new boards that I hammered in change can build a solid base for me to be stronger and last longer.

As I hauled the rotten broken boards to the curb I wished it was that easy with the rot in our society. I can only change society by the choices I make and the power of my vote and while that can make a difference I know it will take a collaborative effort.

In my own life, I can be more conscious of what might need replacing and choose to do so. After all who wants to just crumble away in decay?

Who knew there would be such an inspiring lesson in the mundane task of fence maintenance?


The Doorway to Spring



My thrifty and crafty new entry


The groundhog saw his shadow, but I don’t think the Kiawah Island alligator Charles Ray did. Apparently, he has been predicting local spring since 1932. I just learned this little fact on the local news. How did I not know this colorful bit of local lore? Here in the South Carolina Lowcountry, I am certainly hopeful for early spring, after all, some of my daffodils are on the verge of unfurling their sunshine blooms.

Winter is not my favorite season, although I try to appreciate the gifts it gives just like every other season. As soon as Christmas is over I begin to dream of warmer days, more hours of daylight and mother nature putting on her fashion show.

Recently I fell in love with a wreath in a catalog with beautiful greenery and yellow silk tulips, it was selling for $139 and I almost gave into the temptation. In the end, I couldn’t justify the splurge when I had some rotting fence boards to replace and other needs to be tended to.

This morning I looked at my beautiful blue door and the now fading Christmas wreath that was still in place. To clarify, my holiday wreath was adorned with seashells and a cream ribbon so it didn’t scream Christmas, but the live greenery was beginning to brown. It was time for it to come down.

Still craving a cheerful yellow wreath to grace the door, I ventured to the craft store and $18 later I returned with a grapevine wreath and several stems of yellow flowers with greenery and a spool of roping.

It is not as large and lush as the wreath from the catalog and I could not find yellow tulips like the catalog wreath, but I found decent looking and feeling blooms that created the effect I was hoping to. So it is an inspired creation, a low-budget version of a high-budget item. Plus, I enjoyed a small project to exercise my creativity in a form other than words.

Now my door makes me smile again and I hope it says to the world, “Welcome Spring!” Even if real Spring is still a few weeks away I’m pretty sure here in South Carolina we will have it before our friends to the North. Hang in there Northern friends and family, the snowdrops and crocuses will be there before you know it!

Baring The Halls & Organizing Angels



One page of Angels

The time between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Company has departed and I finally feel settled into winter break. It is a time to reflect back on the year about to pass and forward into the year that is to be. I feel compelled to pack away the holiday glitz and restore order to drawers, closets, and cabinets.

It is a shock to the system when the layers of Christmas decorations have been repacked and stored. The mantle, tablescapes, and the house, in general, seems bare. Not that this is a negative. On the contrary, I find it fitting as we approach a new year. It is a new beginning and should be faced clean and stripped of the past, at least as stripped back as can be. Not all baggage should be left behind, some is essential for moving forward, but I try to be selective and reflective and a bared house fits the task at hand.

The other aspect of a bared house, just a simple white bowl of pine cones on the dining table, is that it reflects the season of winter, we can no longer deny is upon us. Like the bare branches of the trees, it is sculptural and architectural. Beautiful in its own right until the adornments of spring arrive.

The other part of this week between the end and the beginning compels me to do is organize all the things I have put awry through daily living.  The cabinet in the bathroom has been crying out for it for months and now I have the time to do it. This year I also decided to organize and catalog my Metropolitan Museum of Art Angel ornament collection. Mama started me on it in 2002 and I have gotten a new one every year with the exception of 2011. Each year I have carefully packed each angel back in its original pouch and box.

In recent years I have resorted to using a magnifying glass to figure out the year on the back of each ornament, driving myself crazy. So, this year I did that, but took a picture and labeled each picture with the year, then created a document with thumbnail pictures with the year, printed and cut and then taped the picture for each angel on the inside cover of each box. Now in 2018, I will not need the magnifying glass and I will only have to photograph and catalog one angel.

A little over the top for most, I’m sure, but my heart smiles knowing how well organized the angels are for now and the future. If only the bathroom cabinet and the cooking utensil drawer could be so permanently coraled.

So baring the halls and organizing everything from angels to zesters is my way of preparing for saying goodbye to this year and greeting the new. I have already decided, no matter what goes on in the world at large, here at home 2018 is going to be a great year.

Happy New Year my friends!


Mixing up the Merry and Bright



The batter bowl my class gave me for Christmas this year.

December is definitely the baking season. I know a few folks who bake year round, but once the mercury rises, I avoid oven use if possible, which means the oven is off most of the year with the exception of entertaining.

Not so during the holidays. I bake for gifts, I bake for the cookie exchange, I oven roast main dishes, I bake homemade rolls or biscuits, this morning I whipped up a batch of blueberry muffins for the tree-picking.

Yes, it is Christmas morning and I am blogging. Our Christmas morning doesn’t include children, so it is peaceful enough with some Harry Connick Jr. Christmas music in the background to get my weekly blog post written.  Daddy is up but quietly drinking his coffee, the matriarch is in bed, keeping the lady at court hours.

So muffins mixed and in the oven and inspired by my new batter bowl, which incidentally, I will use year round despite the holiday message, I sat down to wish y’all a Merry Christmas or if you celebrate something else or don’t care to celebrate any holidays some peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women, children and all creatures big and small).

Baking does that to me, it fills me with goodwill. Sharing baked goods is an expression of love in my opinion. It is the season of magic and wonder and what could be more magical than mixing separate ingredients in a bowl and creating something wonderful and better than the sum of its parts.

Maybe this year I will just crank up the AC and bake up some merry and bright every month. The matriarch, otherwise known as Mama or Nonnie Malia and sometimes as CM has stirred and the timer is about to go off on the oven. Time to empty the stockings and pick the tree.  Merry Christmas Y’all! May your day be filled with joy, peace and some baked love from a family member’s oven.



The Busy Season



My current to-do list of which I can only claim to have completed four items on…


2017 has flown by at a frenetic pace, punctuated by upheaval in the world, in our country and in my own personal sphere. Happily, the upheaval in my own little world has been all about positive changes. Even the positive changes have added to the workload and required adjustments that have contributed to the break-neck pace living this life has become this year.

I don’t know why I thought the holidays would be any different. Normally I have most of my shopping complete, my cards printed and sent and if the house isn’t completely sparkling all the decorating is complete.

I have completed about ninety-five percent of the decorating, but the house, in general, is a disaster and I haven’t even taken the picture for the Christmas Card let alone ordered it.  This year might have to be a New Year’s  card and as the days fly by and I am getting more comfortable with that idea.

Company is coming in before my teaching is done so I will be cleaning and finishing report cards simultaneously. I think New Year’s Eve will be spent sleeping if I’m still alive by then.

I hate that this year is like this, I try to embrace the intent of the season, peace, joy, love, and while I will find moments to feel all that, I accept this year is just not the year I can revel in it. First New Year’s Resolution, take back life in 2018, at least once the school year is over and next Christmas will be prepared for months ahead so that when it arrives I can soak it all in.

For now, maybe the house won’t be as clean as my usual standards and some of my shopping might not get finished until Christmas Eve, cards will not be mailed on time and for this crazy year, maybe that’s alright.



An Endless Love Affair



Looking from Rockville over to Seabrook


You would think after thirty-one years here in the South Carolina Lowcountry I would take foregranted my surroundings. When you tend to live somewhere it is typical to ignore the area offerings such as museums unless you have company. I see vistas of marsh, river, and ocean on a daily basis and I adore those views, they instantly calm me and make me thankful for getting to live in this beautiful place.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to ride with friends out to a house in Rockville, which is still a pristine village much like it was back in the 1800’s when this particular house was built. I could easily imagine a life here away from traffic and our crazy suburban sprawl. If only I was retired and didn’t have to think about the practical things such as commuting to work!

The house built in 1829 was loaded with character and a gem by itself, but it was the water views that took my breath away. I never tire of looking across the water and marsh. I often wonder if I had this view from my back porch, would I be too distracted to write or would I just find my creative well constantly replenished?

I’m not sure but I would be more than willing to find out. I think I might have to write a book where a lucky character will get to live in this charming house with this magical view and I can live vicariously through them.

I truly hope that when I’m one-hundred and eight (the age I am planning on living to) my love affair with the South Carolina Lowcountry will still burn with the same intensity it does today. Considering that fire has been steady for thirty-one years I can’t imagine it will ever burn out.

Southern Girl Rule #63: An Iron is Essential.



Ironing pillowcases for the guest room

I have a love-hate relationship with my iron.  Okay, it’s mostly a hate relationship, I find clothing in particular difficult to iron (which is why I have a steamer for those), not sure if it has to do with being a leftie or my lack of patience.  I do enjoy the zen of ironing a linen napkin or tea towel, but those items are about the only ones I feel confident tackling.

So why am I ironing pillowcases? My guest room will soon be occupied, and while I would clean and iron for any guest, my mama and daddy are expected in tomorrow. Hence the effort with the pillowcases. It might be a generational thing, but mama always seems to have a stack of ironing. Me on the other hand, if I can get it out of the dryer fast enough and hung, that’s good enough for me.

A few wrinkles have never bothered me, but I clearly remember my mother’s dismay if I tried to leave the house for school in something that needed a little ironing. I still will hear her voice when I’m getting dressed. I think,  Is this passable or does it need ironing? I suppose it has saved me from going about town like a bag lady. I have often chosen what to wear based on what doesn’t need ironing.

You would think I would invest in clothing made from synthetics that don’t require ironing, but I have an affinity for natural fibers, particularly cotton and linen, the two types of cloth that require the most ironing. Ironic I know.

As I worked on the pillowcases, I realized it’s not about the wrinkles, but did I put in the effort, did I represent myself and my family in the best possible light.? The answer should be yes. Ironing is a way to show you care enough to make the effort. Even if your results are less than professional (Don’t look too closely at my work).

So despite it being up there with vacuuming, my least favorite chore, I will press on, pun intended!


Awaiting Irma’s Impact



water supply including the fur babies

School has been canceled and I gratefully slept in this morning. For over a week Irma has been clamoring for my attention and I began by evaluating what I had in my hurricane supply kit and what needed to be replaced or supplemented. As she maintained her ferocity I made contact with my go to place in the upstate to make sure the fur babies and I would be welcome. I made a list of the things I would need to pack to take with and what I would need to to do in the house and yard, some of which is on the agenda today,

On Social media, people are already grumbling about the fact we didn’t have school today, and while I might have preferred working a least a half day today so it would be one less day to make up, I again am grateful for the time to secure the classroom yesterday afternoon and have a two day window to take care of the house, yard and evacuate if needed.

We are still twenty-four to thirty-six hours for knowing the actual impacts to expect, but the track last night and this morning indicate my evacuation place will get the same or possibly more impacts than the lowcountry. So I will press on with prep and be glad to be busy and not glued to the TV for every minor shift in track and wind. A decision to leave will have to be made by Sunday morning, regardless the house and yard will need to be prepared.

Having lived in the lowcountry for thirty-one years I am now a hurricane veteran, my first being the devastating Hugo in 1989. I was a victim of the evacuation debacle of Floyd, had a crazy diverted route home from Mathew and have hunkered down at home for others. So I know it is better to be over-prepared and overly cautious with things like canceling school. Storms will do what they do, no matter what science tells meteorologists with all their models. A last minute jog either direction or a sudden slowing down or speeding up is always a possibility and can drastically change the circumstances for impact.

By Tuesday the tale of Irma in the lowcountry will be written and we will know what the impact is. Somehow I don’t believe it will be as life altering as Hugo. Those of us who lived here for Hugo describe life in terms of before and after Hugo, much like the country does for 9/11. The images of trees snapped like toothpicks, the crumpled metal roof of the house I lived in balled up like a tissue tossed on the street, the water mark on the wall about as tall as me and the coating of pluff mud on most of my belongings are still as vivid today as twenty-eight years ago. I imagine Texas will view life that way with Harvey being the divide in time.

Hugo taught me one thing that has stayed with me, things are just things. If I have my family, including the fur babies and we are safe and healthy, then I have everything I need. Houses and stuff can be replaced, pictures are a sad loss, but the losing of them doesn’t erase memories. So if you are in the path of Irma it may impact your life with inconveniences and problems but as long as you have your life and those of your loved ones, you are blessed beyond measure.



A Glass Ceiling Not To Break



The glass ceiling in my parent’s conservatory

This is not a politcal piece or a feminist piece, so if that is what you are expecting from the title you might be disappointed. This is about the magic of a glass ceiling. A canopy with a view.

I’m currently at my parent’s house, a mostly annual summer visit. I enjoy spending time with them and in the beautiful part of Virginia in which they reside. It is a respite from the daily grind and the dogs and. I love the hilly two-mile route we take for our morning walks.

I especially enjoy the glass room on the back of the house that my parent’s refer to as the conservatory. The ceiling and the walls on three sides are glass. Within those three glass walls are many windows that can open and the space also has a heating and cooling unit, so it truly can be used year-round.

The light in the conservatory is bright but filtered by a great canopy of trees that hang overhead. I love to lay on the sofa out there and strare up between the branches to catch sight of the blue and the clouds floating by. If this were my house I would be tempted to make this my writing studio.

The room feels airy and tree-house like. The light changes as the day passes and you feel connected to the nature that surrounds the space. Squirrels sometimes drop nuts on the roof and that an be a little unsettling, but I love watching the birds, especially the cardinals that flit among the branches and the bird feeder.

This is a room that calms and soothes. It is also a great place to take a nap. I’d like to say I have done some incredible writing in this space, but I have to admit I like to just be in there and daydream or read. Perhaps if I got to enjoy it more than a week each year, I might be able to get down to business in there.

We all need a space in our homes that is a respite from the world. A place to recharge and spark our creativity. At home I would say my room I call the library (because it has tall bookcases full of books and two leather chairs) is that space. Although I find the beach and the waterways through the lowcountry to be powerful places to rejuvenate and inspire.

Here under this canopy of glass I can’t help but feel all is right with the world.

This is one glass ceiling I hope will never be shattered.



My Cheating Heart



View from the Magnolia Cafe and Bakery in Beaufort, SC across to Lady’s Island.

I have made no secret about my love for the South Carolina lowcountry and the Charleston area in particular. I came of age here, I have loved, lost, lived with this place the backdrop. It is permanently etched on my heart, the saltwater, and the pluff mud course through my veins, I think my very soul would shrivel if I had to leave here forever.

But, I have a confession to make. I’ve begun an affair with a little town down the coast. Beaufort is also part of the magical lowcountry. The Port Royal Sound is captivating and the town itself is how our area was long ago, before mass growth.

It’s a walkable town. Residential is close to the commercial areas and the small annex campus of USC. Beaufort is big on charm and the arts. It has an intellectual and literary side that is palpable, and I’m drawn to know more. It is not crowded or pretentious. It is not in a hurry, Beaufort is a comfortable chair on a breezy porch. It is the gardenia in the garden, inviting you to stop and soak it in.

Yes, I have fallen hard. I have fantasies about buying a little cottage where I could live part-time, I don’t think I could bear to leave Charleston altogether. Fortunately for me, part of the book I’m finishing and most of the book next on my writing to-do list take place in that siren on the Port Royal Sound. I plan to make many repeat trips, you know. . . for research.

I hope I won’t make Charleston jealous and I hope she understands. She truly is my first love and will always be. I’ve just discovered this heart is big enough for two.