During my blogging years, I’ve introduced you to Carolyn.  I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know her just a bit better.  It’s a longer story than usual but she’s worth every word. Some people just can’t be edited.

A few years ago, she had come to Hilton Head from The Villages to spend the night with us.  The timing was perfect. We were headed to North Carolina the next day, were planning to leave the house early, and she wanted to be on her way at an early hour as well.

That evening we took Carolyn out to dinner with some friends who lived down the street.

The next morning, the Mister rose early to make coffee.  Shortly after that, I got a knock on my bedroom door. Carolyn came in, sat down on the bed, and said that a terrible, terrible thing had happened.  Carolyn was nearly 6 feet tall, had a thick head of curly hair and a Tennessee accent (twang) that could knock your socks off. You tended to listen up when she had something to say.

Through the years, I’d done “terrible” with Carolyn and it ran a broad gamut from absolutely nothing to something of concern so I wasn’t alarmed.  Yet.

Never one to get directly to the point, she thanked me profusely for a wonderful evening, the food had been just delicious, she had loved catching up with us and had so enjoyed the friends who had joined us and she hoped she’d see them again sometime soon. What were their names again?  She thought she’d write and tell them how nice they were to her.

 I was waiting for the terrible. 

She went on to say that she’d decided to take a shower before she went to bed and oh, by the way, the guest bathroom was just lovely, so colorful, the way the stripes and flowers went together, had I had help with a decorator or done it myself?

 I was still waiting for the terrible.  Getting a little nervous.

Then, she said, she thought as long a she was taking a shower, she might as well  wash her hair because there was some delicious smelling shampoo right there next to the shower and she’d been in the car all day and it seemed like a good idea and the hot water and the shower head were just perfect.  Did I know where I’d gotten that wonderful shower head? She surely would like to have one just like it.  

Still waiting for the terrible.  Maybe she’d forgotten.   That would not be entirely out of character.

Then she told me that while she was washing her hair with that wonderful smelling shampoo she had gotten some in her eyes and she rubbed them to get the shampoo out because they really, really stung and hurt like crazy and then her contact lenses fell out and went down the drain.

Oops.  Maybe the eagle just landed.

Did I know, she then asked, that she was almost legally blind?

No, I said.  I was not aware of that particular, and at this moment, very ominous “legally-blind” thing.   This after knowing her for 40 years.

I know what you’re thinking….of course she has an extra pair of lenses,  a pair of prescription glasses, sun or otherwise.  Oh, that would have been far too easy.

Now, it’s seven am on a Sunday morning; we have to leave the house in two hours and, obviously, so does she.  I asked if she could even see my face. She said she couldn’t but it didn’t matter since she already knew what I looked like. 

She also said all this talk was making her hungry; she had seen some delicious looking blueberry muffins on the kitchen counter last evening (when she still had contact lenses) and the coffee smelled wonderful.

But what about seeing, I asked?  And getting home?  You can’t drive this way. We can’t take you home.  This is a disaster, a complete and total unmitigated disaster. And just exactly how in the world can you even think about food at a time like this?  Aren’t you too worried to eat?

She said she saw no relationship whatsoever between her sight and the blueberry muffins which happened to be her very, very favorite kind and besides she wasn’t the least bit worried.

Just exactly how can you not be worried, Carolyn, I asked?

She replied:  “Because I have faith, Sallie…in you and our Good Lord. The two of you will work it all out.” 

And off she went to the kitchen.

Well, if I were to be assigned a partner in that mess, He was a good one to have. Of course, we found someone to get her some new lenses and off she went, just as planned.

As I’ve said earlier, Carolyn is no longer with us.  Her memory lingers on, so strongly.  For so many.  I’d put money on most of her friends thinking about her almost every day.  What a legacy she left us all.


We rate WAZE at the very top of our life-style computer assistants. Just plug in your info and follow its little brick road. It tells you everything you need to know for an angst-free trip.

On a recent trip, we asked….and received….excellent directions from point A to point B.  We wanted the bi-ways instead of the high-ways.  WAZE was happy to accommodate and we travelled for over 150 miles on back roads that were tree-lined, nearly empty and delightful.  It brought back memories of the years we each travelled with our parents from our respective homes to the place in Georgia, where we ultimately met.  Over 65 years ago.

Those memories, not-so-pleasantly, also carry with them the overwhelming smell of gasoline, the discomfort of un-air-conditioned cars, the parental tension of getting lost…a lot…. and the hours and hours of wondering when you might eat or attend to personal needs.

We decided we didn’t miss a bit of that part.  However, we both remembered with fondness the Burma-Shave signs, long out of existence, which popped up along the landscape.  Planted about 100 yards apart, some were amusingly product driven, touting their brushless shaving cream; others reminded us to drive carefully or pay the price.  Either way, they were bright moments in what were long, seemingly endless, trips.

And so, Dear Reader, if you’ve never had the dubious pleasure of pounding down southern back roads, in the middle of the summer, sitting in the back seat of the car while one or both parents chain-smoked, temperatures in the 90’s with no relief in sight, I give you a small sampling of those wonderful Burma-Shave signs.  They made us smile all those years ago and I hope they bring a smile to your face at the start of this New Year. 






If you wish, a site for more of these ditties is But, fair warning:  They can be addictive.  Silly is the order of the day.  Seriously, could you ask for anything more?


He’s finally back.  He abandoned me completely during my time of need.  During those two long weeks of sniffling, coughing, sore throat, feverish times.  I was all by myself. Left to keep my own company.  To take my own temperature.  Fetch my own Kleenexes.

Not that he’s particularly adept in filling any of those needs.  But still.  You hope to reap rewards after you’ve invested so much.  And invest I have.  Years and years of care and love.  Offered unselfishly and unconditionally.

Even during the day, he became offish.  The looks he gave me lacked their normal concern and affection.  I asked again and again what I had done to deserve that snobby, aloof attitude but no good answer was forthcoming.

The night times were especially long and lonely.  I’ve become accustomed to his warmth.  His mutterings.  The slight stirrings.  They help me get a good night’s sleep and surely, if there’s ever a time you want a good night’s sleep, it’s when you have a bad cold.

He’s very sensitive to touch and smell.  It became clear that he’d decided I wasn’t up to par on those things so he turned his back on me.   Actually, it was his back I particularly missed. After all, nothing says sleep like a purring cat, his furry warm  back tucked snuggly into the small of yours. 

Anyway, as I said earlier, he’s back.  How sweet it is.

Christmas 2019

When we were first married, the Mister’s father gave us one share of stock in Scott Paper. It seemed a bit odd at the time but there was something lovely in that gift that I didn’t originally appreciate. I was thinking about that the other day as my Christmas “tissue” blog is being re-blogged below.

The Scott Paper people apparently didn’t care if you had one or one million shares of their stock. They still sent you a Christmas present every year. A giant box full of paper towels, toilet paper and, of course, tissues. Being a teensy bit poor during that time, that box was manna from heaven for us. Our appreciation of that box of “necessaries” was truly joyful.

Now I’m wondering if that was the forerunner of my “tissue” issue. See what you think.

The Mister and I wish you the very happiest of Christmases.

The Christmas Spirit

The year was 1961. I was working in Boston at the New England Conservatory of Music as a receptionist. It was, in all respects, a wonderful year. I was in love (still am) and was surrounded by talented, generous and joyful people.

But Christmas was always hard for me. What to give to my parents? My father never wore anything but a suit, had enough ties to last several life times, bought his own socks and had no hobbies. My mother was choosy about the things she wore and the things she had in the house. I always had great angst about what to give them. That year I found a little Japanese porcelain dish which I hoped they would like, but it cost more than my small salary could comfortably bear. Still, I bought it. There wasn’t any joy in the purchase, however. I was worried and poorer…not a good combination.

The Conservatory was, back then, in a less than desirable part of town. It was surrounded by poverty level housing and people. There was a drug store right across the street that I visited on my lunch hour to pick up necessary items.

One day, near Christmas, I was at the drug store, mindlessly purchasing some stuff, not giving it any thought as I stood in line to pay for my items. An older woman was in front of me. She wasn’t dressed warmly enough for the cold Boston December day. It did strike me that she most likely didn’t have a warmer coat, but the thought was fleeting.

And then something happened that I will never forget. As my arms were carelessly full of stuff, I realized she was buying a single box of tissues. And I heard her say to the clerk: “This is for my friend for Christmas. She’ll really like it.”

I find myself as speechless now as I did then. And still a little close to tears. It was a hard reality. She was delighted with her choice of a gift for her friend, confident that it would be given, received and used with love and affection.

And I was worried about an expensive porcelain dish for my parents who needed nothing and would most likely put the dish in a drawer anyway? Not a Christmas goes by that I don’t think about that moment.

Sometimes, I wish our family could just exchange boxes of tissues, carefully choosing ones that might appeal…they come in such jazzy colors and designs these days. Wouldn’t that be fun? We could wrap them up fancifully with pretty paper and ribbons, confident they would be used and appreciated.

Now, I know we can’t….and would never want to…deny our families the joy of Christmas morning and presents under the tree. Santa Claus does exist. But, for me, perhaps, a box of tissues has become a symbol of friendship and love, of a longed-for simple Christmas season, of joy, of an opportunity to share with others less fortunate, and, in its own way, a real meaning of Christmas.

Cold Comfort

There’s no comfort in being cold. Even less in having one.  I understood that first hand when I caught one recently. My first in over twenty years!  The dis-comfort of chills and coughs, aches and pains, sniffles and fever came crashing down. 

That night, as I gathered up warm blankets and boxes of tissues for a healing sleep, I decided to take a look in our medicine cabinet.  Turns out it was a walk down memory lane.  All the cold remedies in the closet were seriously past their use-by-date. 

There was Ny-Quil and ZZZZ-quil.  Sleep meds and nose drops.  Zy-Cam and cough drops.  Advil and  Cold-eeze. I was determined get well fast, so I cooked up a combination of those out-of-date drugs that no cold could possibly withstand.

Sleep came easily.  Most likely too easily.  And much too deeply.  At 3:00 a.m. I woke, wondering where I was. I tentatively put a toe out and found the Mister.  That was comforting. Shortly after that, I heard a faint, but clear, rendition of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer coming from a place nearby.  It seemed only right to sing along.  So I did.

After Rudolph had flown off into the night with all the other reindeer, I wondered if I’d really heard that. Or if it was just my imagination?  Maybe it was enabled by too many “cold comfort” drugs?   Then it started up again.  And again, I joined in.  It was Rudolph all right, singing gently and surely from the Mister’s bedside table.

Or was it? There were no music-making thingies on his bed-side table, no angels singing from the rafters.  But the music was there.  It really was.  Wasn’t it? 

Socks as Metaphor

Both the Mister and I like socks.  We each have a broad assortment; mine considerably larger than his but still.  We’re in agreement that socks are not just for chilly weather any more. They can make a statement or just be fun. For the most part, we’re of one happy mind about the whole sock thing.

We differ wildly, however, in the manner of which we don our socks.  Oh sure, we both put them on one sock at a time but the manner of selecting the socks-of-the-day varies broadly and deeply.

I’m a grab-and-go kinda person; he’s a matchy-matchy kind.

Mine are in a jumbled pile. His are rolled up in neat little balls. Yes, I enable his carefully matched socks. And yes, he looks the other way when I wear one orange sock and one blue sock. Or maybe one with a cat motif, the other with zebras.

Mine come from exotic places throughout the year. Thoughtful and funny friends, on-line sources like The Joy of Socks, and funky little shops. My collection is fresh and fashionable.

He goes to Belk’s.  Every five years or so.

So what would our children say about all that?  That’s just the way they roll?  The same but different? Way too late to change any part of that. Don’t even think about it. We all tried. Look where it got us.

Works for me.  And, apparently, for him.   So, just go ahead and sock it to us.  We can take it.

Thanksgiving Update

It was a lovely Thanksgiving Day in the Low Country.  Blue skies, fresh breezes, light traffic.  We gathered at our children’s house and always look forward to seeing our daughter-in-law’s parents. We’ve been friends from the get-go. We’re lucky that way.

The porch on the May River was wonderfully sittable.  Cocktails were served, conversation flowed.   In due time and with sufficient wine in our tummies, we made our way to a beautiful and bountiful Thanksgiving table. 

Most of the family are excellent and creative cooks.  I am the exception to the rule and that’s okay with everyone.  The good news is that everybody always makes a little extra to compensate for my inevitable oopsies.

As I wrote last week, I had happily located the recipe for Mrs. Willard’s Zucchini Casserole and was planning to share it with the others.  I also noted that I was a touch nervous about the preparation part.

And, in fact, there was good reason to feel that way.  I followed her directions to the nth degree.  Salting, slicing, simmering, stirring.  Alas, from the very first taste, I knew something important was missing.  Time was running short so we took the dish as it was and hoped for the best. 

As we dined and I heard no “yummys” but sensed some some “hummies,” I knew exactly what was missing and there was absolutely nothing any one could have done about it.

What was missing was Mrs. Willard.

It’s Thanksgiving. Again.

It’s that time of year when we go all Norman Rockwell.  We get out the good china, the colorful tablecloths, the pretty glasses.  Gourds and autumn leaves decorate our houses.  Families do their best to get together and we deeply miss the ones who can’t be with us. 

And then there’s the food.  Always too much but always appreciated.  We resurrect our old family recipes.  Year after year, out of respect for our heritage, we re-create the good ones.  And, sometimes, the not-so-good ones.

And so it was last week that my relatively small food contribution to this year’s dinner was discussed.

The family knows that my grandmother put lard in everything she cooked.  It was yummy but we can’t go there anymore.   My mother was big on adding generous dollops of rum to nearly everything that left the kitchen.  That, too, was yummy but best not to go there either.  For those reasons, the recipe collection from my past is slim and iffy, at best.

Thus, I’ve always relied on my friends to share their simple and always delicious favorites.  This year, I offered to bring Mrs. Willard’s Zucchini Casserole to our table.  Surely, I remembered the recipe from our recent downsizing and deeply purged move.  Didn’t I?

Where might it be?  My recipe box?  Nope, not there.  Maybe it’s in one of the few cookbooks I brought with me?  Not there either.  Panic swells up.  If I pitched that,  what else went out by mistake?

Aha, my memory said. Maybe I stuck it in my old…really old… Joy of Cooking.  Surely I brought that with me.  But not so fast.  It’s nowhere to be seen.  And I can’t exactly Google “Mrs. Willard’s Zucchini Casserole”.

Then memory did me another small favor.  That old…..really old…..Joy of Cooking has no backing.  It just looks like an old stack of papers.  Take another peek. 

And there it was.  One old friend embracing another.  Mrs. Willard will be with us, after all.  Of course, there’s still that little matter of proper preparation but I think I’ll be okay.  Mrs. Willard understood my kitchen limitations.  Good friend that she was.

And a happy Thanksgiving to all. 

Our Hometown Newspaper

I guess we’re lucky to still have one.  Some days it’s so thin, the Mister says he could shave with it.

I understand I’m in the minority but I still want my physical paper in my hot little hands every morning and I’m not happy if it’s not there by 6 am.  I need the feel, the smell of newsprint and the gentle sounds of turning pages.

The Island Packet is sustained, by and large, by ads extolling the modern miracles of health care, thus providing a clear picture of the paper’s target market.

Full page advertisements for new and supposedly improved hearing ads are common. Sometimes, the ads are four full pages!

We’re bombarded with ads for stem cell treatment for nearly everything that ails us.  Most of it due to our aging bodies.

Quick fixes for varicose veins and sagging arms are usually right next to the obituaries. Cataract surgery ads catch our eye.

Then there are the walk-in bathtubs, designed to save us from disastrous slips, falls and the horrors of broken hips.   They promise one-day free installation if you “Act Now!”  Operators are standing by!  Offer ends soon!

We don’t believe the ads for one minute but we’re grateful for the revenue stream that keeps our paper alive.  Everyone needs a little life support.

But just this morning, there was a new advertisement.  Of sorts.  The headline reads: “Rise and Walk!”

Yep, the old time revival tent is back.  Come one, come all. Everyone is welcome. The lame will walk; the blind will see; the deaf will hear.  All it takes is a little faith.

At this point, if I had to put my money someplace, I’d put it on the tent.  Prayer and belief have been around a lot longer than stem-cell treatments and hearing aids. 

And they’re a whole lot less expensive.


That one, simple, scary word sends shivers up my spine. And it has nothing to do with ghosties and goblins.  Halloween’s all about the nifty costumes and the requisite creativity to make them.  I find that utterly terrifying. As parents, we’d send our boys out into the dark of night, “dressed” in the Mister’s old and tattered shirts, with a schmear of black gunk on their faces.  That was it.  No imagination.  Nothing clever. Just regret that they always brought home so much candy in spite of it all. 

Here in our new surroundings, all holidays are celebrated.  Fancifully.  Gaily.  There’s music, table decorations, flowers, colors.  We go all out.  We get with the plan or stay home.

And so it was, that lacking said creativity, we regretfully declined a lovely invitation for the Halloween bash.  But at the very last minute, we decided to pop over to the Big House and take a peek at all the fancy get-ups. No costumes necessary. No one would even see us.

We slipped in the back and immediately saw the Halloweeners pictured above  They definitely were not what we’d expected.  And not necessarily what was welcomed.  In fact, it wasn’t long before the “unknowns” were forcefully ejected from the premises. 

We thought we heard laughter as the pair were escorted to the elevator and sent on their way.  But who knows?  Perhaps it was just a gentle snort or two from behind the somewhat obscene masks.  Only the ghosts really know for sure.

Lights! Camera! Action!

When it comes to enjoying artistic endeavors, I prefer to by-pass those things.  I like my artists up close and personal. Unscripted. Uncostumed.  Unlit.

I got lucky many years ago when I worked at the New England Conservatory of Music.  Most of the professors at the school were also members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  An elite group of musicians, indeed.

But I knew them as just regular people who walked into the school every day.  Just like the rest of us.  They always stopped by the registrar’s office where I worked and chatted with us.   I attended their rehearsals every Thursday during my lunch hour and saw them at work.   No lights, no cameras.  Just a group of very talented people working together to make beautiful music.

Just recently, our son and daughter-in-law hosted the Hilton Head Dance Theater for a small event at our old house on the May River.  Prior to the performance, the young dancers mingled among the party-goers.  We watched them giggle and laugh and talk with their friends. We saw them in their shorts and t-shirts.  No make-up.  No glitzy costumes. 

Then, transformed into ballerinas, they emerged from the kitchen and onto the grassy lawn.  No stage door for them.  No fancy backdrop.  Just a beautiful, cloudless, afternoon of Ballet on the May.  

The audience was gathered on the porch, wine glasses in hand. Cell-phone cameras  quietly capturing the beauty of the afternoon.  Proud parents.  Happy ballet enthusiasts.

Just exactly the way I like it.

An Indian Summer Fantasy

It was a late summer day so I put my little beach chair in the car and headed to the ocean. October sun, gentle breezes, tourists gone. I found myself closing my eyes to just enjoy it all.

Now, you might think that conversations at the beach would be private and contained.  But, when there’s a breeze….and there usually is…..voices carry.  And so it was last week that I became privy to a wide ranging political discussion, just up wind from where I sat.

As I eavesdropped, I learned that the women sitting near me had, to a one, watched the latest presidential debate and were sharing their varied ideas and positions.  They’d paid close attention to the big themes:  health care, immigration, taxes, gun control.  Each had a studied and thoughtful approach.  They were, decidedly, NOT of one mind.  They were engaged in a “judge-free” discussion and I learned a lot.  I did wonder at the time if they knew how lucky they were to be able to do that but that’s another matter.

Then one singled out a candidate and said:  “She needs to “style-up.”

Whoa, I thought.  They just morphed into a whole other level of debate.

Apparently, there was more than one die-hard feminist in the group.  Those women, of course, took the position that “styling up” was frivolous and silly.  Stick to the issues, they said.   Surely, we’ve moved beyond this.

The other side suggested that if clothes make the man, then why not the woman?  Image counts, they said.  So do first impressions.  This is important stuff we’re talking about here. 

Those in the middle were busily hedging their bets. 

It was a vigorous debate and I was enjoying every minute of it.

On and on they went. Civilly agreeing to disagree. Honoring and respecting one another’s opinions. They were friends with differences.

Then a chill wind woke me from my pleasant little nap. And that, as they say, was that.

Beach chair painting by Vic Mastis

Which Comes First?

“Dear Abby’s” advice column or the New York Times crossword puzzle?

The puzzle definitely comes first.  At least for me.  “Dear Abby” just happens to be on the same page as the puzzle so, yes, I do read her column.  Especially when I’m stuck on a clue.

One day not long ago, Abby was responding to a reader who is moving to a retirement community where she and her husband know no one.  The writer admits to not being great at small talk and wonders how she’ll make new friends.

Abby recommended her very own booklet called, something like: “How To Start Over.” It’s a mere $8.00 and my check is in the mail. How could I not want to read that?  It gets to the very core of moving someplace new. 

I can do the actual move bit.  Done it many times.  Hung the pictures.  Arranged the furniture.  Placed the lamps.  Shelved the books.  Sorted the closets.

But after the do-ing,  comes the be-ing.  That’s the hard part.  Certainly for me, as a self proclaimed, card carrying, introvert. And for some of Abby’s readers, apparently. 

I’m eager to see what Abby offers up.  She’s been around a while.  Seen a lot.  Done a lot.  She’s the go-to-woman for many people.  Asking for her advice is new to me.  But so is this move.  So, bring it on, Abby.  I’m checking my mailbox daily.

Image thanks to

Breakfast Table Un-Conversations

Mostly, they’re just gentle mutterings as one reads his iPad, the other works a crossword puzzle. It’s music of a sort. Humming noises in the background.  A soft blur.

It’s all easy and expected.  Until last Saturday morning when one uttered the following:  “I was visited by smells last night.”

Then the world stops. There’s a palpable gasp.  As if the dead has been resurrected.  Which is exactly what those words mean.

The questions start.  Was it flowers or fruit?  How long did they last?  Were you sound asleep when they came to you?

The questioner already knows the answers but they need to be asked anyway.  For confirmation.  To make sure.  Why now, we wonder?  She’s been gone several years.  

She, for the uninitiated, or the forgetful, is my mother.  Dead now for over twenty years, she spent many of those years appearing to us in the night as “sweet smells.”  Sometimes fruity, sometimes floral. Strong, intense aromas that wafted over us, waking us from deep sleep. Never visiting both of us at the same time.  Ghosts don’t do that.  Don’t ask why.  The episodes always lasted between 15 and 30 seconds. Then they’d be gone.  Poof. Just like that.

The abnormal became the normal.  The peculiar, the accepted.   The why, the why-not. The events became shrug-worthy. Nothing more.

But now, after a hiatus of several years?

There’s a reason it’s happening again.  We just don’t know what it is. Yet.

Oh, The Things We Learn

This little blog is rapidly turning into Life on the Lagoon. There’s a lot going on out there and we appreciate every bit of it from the comfort of our porch.

And so, as we looked out on that little porch just yesterday, we were shocked to discover that someone had spilled white paint all over everything.  The railings, furniture, flooring, plants.  Nothing was left “unadorned.”  Was it a vandal?  A repairman in the wrong place?  The mister sleepwalking?  Paintbrush in hand?

Nope.  None of the above.  It was a new resident.  Just going about his daily behaviors.  His regular activities.  Tending to business.  Doing what comes naturally.

He’s built a room in a nearby pine tree.  One hundred and fifty feet above our house.  And with a clear gravitational drop to our porch.  He knows what to do, how to do it and he does it frequently.  So, look out below. Take your hat with you if dare step outside.

Unless, of course, you don’t mind being on the receiving end of the Osprey’s bodily eliminations.  Children wouldn’t beat around the bush.  They’d call it what it is:  Poop.  Osprey poop.  Which is white.  Which we learned about the hard way.

Is the Osprey a permanent resident or a renter?  A “snow bird”or a full-timer?  Is he just looking or has he made a down-payment on the nest?  He’s a beautiful specimen.  Admirable in flight or in repose.  A magnificent bird of prey. 

And, I’m sorry to say, I truly, deeply hope he goes away.  I know that sounds like a “not-in-my-backyard” kind of attitude.  And, in fact, it is just that.  I want to admire him from afar.  A far, far way away.  I’ll happily ooh and aah as I watch him gracefully and majestically soar off into the great beyond. 

With extensive liberties, a person could (sort of) be reminded of Bogie’s famous Casablanca sentiment: “Of all the pine trees in all the towns in all the world, he had to fly into ours.”