Drivin’ My Life Away

“Those windshield wipers slappin’ out a tempo,
Keepin’ perfect rhythm with the song on the radio,
But I got to keep rollin’ . . . ”

Until recently, I the Mother of this pack, was the main driver of my children.  The one to ensure all daily comings and goings were done efficiently and safely.  If my husband is with us, I defer to him, and he drives. But today, I relinquished control to 22-year old Culley behind the wheel, and 16-year old Livi in the navigator’s seat, which was not an easy thing for me to do.  I sat in the back seat, and listened as the synergy between the two of them played out.  It was a great trip, made short by fluid conversation and Livi’s great playlist. Today, all this driving, and what felt like a seismic shift in our driving roles got me  thinking about my history with driving, and some important drivers in my life.

Gordon Livingston McCully.  My dad was the best driver I knew: cars, motorcycles, or boats.  He was prepared for most any road situation.  He was in control, and his vast knowledge of all things mechanical seeped its way into his driving ability.  He knew what every ping and rev of an engine meant.  All this to say, I felt sublimely safe with him, when he was behind the wheel.  Also, he was my most patient, unflappable driving instructor who loved being in the car and on the road.  Daddy = Roads Scholar.

Jim Lesch.  My husband is the most cautious driver I know.  He opts for slow and steady, which works for him, and for the past 27 years has served our family beautifully.  He’s the only person I know who’s been driving as long as he has, and has never gotten a speeding ticket.  I learn from his methodical approach to driving every time I get in the car with him. He’s the Zen-master of the road.  He yields to drivers; let’s them in if they are merging, and is never aggressive.  All this, and he’ll tell you, he dislikes driving, especially road trips.  Jim = Safe & Courteous.










Jenny McCully Hoagland.  My baby sister is one of the finest drivers I know, too, probably because we learned from the same man: Gordo.  Jenny, however, inherited his love of speed, which he always kept in check, but she does not, necessarily. She wastes no time dawdling, and if she’s alone, she will seek a thrill.  Her theory of driving: get from A to Z as safely and quickly as possible.  And also, have a good time while driving. That usually means some great music, and some bubble gum or lollipops.  Jenny = Fun & Safe.

In the book that I will one day write about my mother, Thelma, there will be an entire chapter dedicated to her driving.  There’s a lot of material there 😉  And for today, I hope and pray that my children have inherited the safe-driving gene that runs in our family.  As I’ve often realized, there is no more comforting sound than the garage door opening, signifying their return home.







And if you made it this far. . . here’s a throwback to my car-washing days 😉




Mailboxes of Arizona

Who doesn’t love getting a handwritten letter in the mail?  Every time I check my mailbox, I’m hopeful there will be some original, authentic piece in the box.  To me, an envelope with someone’s penmanship is the hallmark of “I care.”  Perhaps because I delight in handwritten letters, I’m always struck by their vessels: mailboxes. As I look around my own neighborhood I find that they are an extension of the resident’s home. Last fall when traveling throughout Arizona, I enjoyed pulling over and taking pics of lots of different mailboxes.  I hope you’ll enjoy this rural/suburban “post” as much as I did:

Near Sedona. Someone’s cap had fallen off onto the road. I assume the person who lives at 1275 saw it on the asphalt, picked it up, and placed it on the mailbox so its owner could easily retrieve it. Arizona etiquette 😉
I’m partial to a red mailbox. I appreciate the red rocks used here to help give support to the large box on the metal pole. But what I really love is the hospitable bench placed nearby. Maybe this is an older resident who needs a sit after taking a walk out to the mail box. Or perhaps they know the postman who delivers the mail, and it’s there for his/her convenience. What do you think is the story here?
Mailbox for Chapel of the Cross. Someone took the time to hand-paint a likeness of the spectacular church that was built into the side of the red rock formations.
Kokopelli. The hump-backed, flute player is an ancient Southwestern deity who represents good luck, prosperity, and fertility.  Look closely at the shadow behind. . . is that him???
Leaving Tusayan, Route 64 is a beautifully rural, straight shot out of the Grand Canyon. The mailboxes are gathered at the ends of roads. I assume it’s this way because the landscape and homes are far and wide and this is easiest way for the USPS to deliver mail.
Two nights after the full moon, and it’s still plump and hanging low in the Grand Canyon morning sky.  This photo speaks to the country-girl in me: moon, blue skies, dirt road, and the conglomeration of mailboxes feels like home.
A larger community and lots of mailboxes. Some with mail flags raised. Does it contain a love letter? A bill with a payment?

Las Vegas: Sir Mick Cancels, but the Party Goes On. . .

Last stop on our epic road trip: Las Vegas.  This was to have been the cork-popping, confetti-dropping hoorah! of the trip.  Lil’s bucket-list item was to have been checked. We had tickets to see The Rolling Stones in concert at the T-Mobile Arena!  At 50-years running, the Rolling Stones are the longest-touring live act around. However, Sir Mick Jagger came down with an unfortunate case of laryngitis, and his doctor recommended he rest his voice, so our show was cancelled.  And from what I understand, this has rarely happened.  Hey, I’m willing to give the gentleman a break.  Disappointing? To say the least. Did it dampen our good time?  For about 10 minutes.  But it’s V E G A S and we continued on in the Vegas ways: we ate, shopped, got dolled up, and went out for other entertainment!  Scroll through to see how it all went down:

A room with a view. Our east-facing room at Aria Hotel was spectacular. City and mountain scapes; bright lights and sunrise silhouettes.
On the first night, we saw one of my personal favorites, Olivia Newton John, in concert at the Flamingo Hotel. She’s as glorious now as she was then. Highly recommend! #SummerNights #Grease #Xanadu #animalactivist #breastcancersurvivor
The Jean Philippe Patisserie in the Aria hotel was too much to pass up. Great pastries, even better coffee.
Shopping. This Stella McCartney number stopped me in my tracks. #sweaterweather
Artist Shepard Fairey updated the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary touring logos. Maybe another time, Mick?
Hotels in Las Vegas are architectural feats. This Aria waterfall covered a football field-sized area. I was ready for the Stones, but that wasn’t going to happen. Instead. . .
. . . we got to see the Australian Bee Gees! A tribute to my all-time favorite Brothers Gibb. Here’s the early incarnation of the 60s-70s Bee Gees.
Here’s the “One Night Only” 90’s version. . .
And somehow, we were photo-bombed by the Bros.


Road Trip, Playlist, and Route 66

The drive between the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas provides the opportunity to see some Americana: Route 66.  It was even better than I imagined.  Let’s go!

We jumped off I-40 West and onto Historic Route 66 in Seligman, AZ.
It’s a kitschy, touristy road, but so very driveable and full of nostalgic oases of motels, restaurants and gas-ups.
Indeed, there’s plenty of roadkill along Route 66. But when you see a Roadkill Cafe, it’s time to pull over and have some breakfast.
There’s nothing like a tall cup of joe and a hearty breakfast to get you ready for a road trip. . .
. . . except for a chance encounter with a mounted elk. Lil has a thing for big game, so here she is with her new friend.
Blue skies and directions at the Gas n’ Grub 66.
Blue skies for.ev.er. And interesting tableaus with rock formations. And plenty of places to pull over just to take in the scenery.
We were channeling our Thelma & Louise when we came upon this little honky tonk. Cool tunes, cooler beers. This was soooo THELMA.
Rearview mirror: The scenery was spectacular ahead of me AND behind me.
My happy place: on the road. I feel so alive and so happy when I’m on the go. I think I’m like both my grandmothers like that. Check out those gorgeous clouds.

Next stop, Las Vegas. . .


Bucket List Check-Off: The Grand Canyon

Here’s what I know after my first day-trip to the Grand Canyon: I need to see it again with my husband and children, all of us together.  It’s grander far beyond anything than I could have imagined.  To stand on the rim and look around this wonder, for me, was to realize how infintessimally small  I am in in this world.  It’s a humbling thing that simply must be experienced in person.

Lil and I made the brilliant decision to not try to tackle the Grand Canyon National Park on our own.  We did a Pink Jeep Tour of the South Rim.  The tour began with an IMAX movie, National Geographic’s Grand Canyon, which got us super-psyched and physically-oriented for the tour (I felt like I was flying through the canyon!)  Our guide was an encyclopedia of GCNP knowledge: she led interactive stories about the flora and fauna, the Native Americans and indigenous people who still lay claim to this land, the canyon’s prehistoric roots, white explorers and government involvement in the national parks system, the role of the Colorado River, and so much more.

This was a bucket-list item, y’all.  I sincerely hope you have the opportunity to see this in your lifetime.

I highly recommend Pink Jeep Tours for a thoroughly informative and entertaining way to see the Grand Canyon. Especially if it’s your first time visiting, like me.  This is Lucy, our awesome, intelligent guide, who packed in a ton of info and some super-fun trivia.
This is a new happy place for me. One of the environs that I’ve stashed away in my head, so I can close my eyes and recall the sensory experience of it.
Scooching (the technical term for sitting + scooting) out onto this ledge was a big deal. It’s a total drop-off. Only canyon below. But just look out into that yonder. . .
And, a little canyon humor. . . 😉

Spiritual Vortexes in Sedona: Chapel of the Holy Cross

Just beyond the city limits of Sedona is an architectural feat known as the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  In keeping with Sedona’s theme as a “spiritual vortex,” this is a church that’s built into the side of the red rocks formations.  This was conceived of by sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, and built by a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956.

The 12 inch walls of this church were sandblasted to feature the aggregate red stone.
I really like seeing churches when I travel. It’s likely that I’ve said a prayer for You in one or more of them 😉 This is inside the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Photo taken from the grounds of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, overlooking desert and red rock formations.


We left the Chapel of the Holy Cross and drove to a scenic vista at the Sedona Airport, site of the “balanced vortex.” This guy was helping tourists get their shots. I wanted a pic of this dude snapping photos. Oh, and those clouds. . .

Next stop, Grand Canyon.

Mii Amo Spa at Enchantment Resort

Mii Amo Entrance
Mii Amo spa entrance is an enchantment all its own. It’s like walking straight into the red rocks with a spiritual and physical treatment awaiting you.
Lil and me after our treatments. She had a prickly pear body wrap that began with an exfoliating body polish and used concentrated orange blossom essential oil. I had a dosha balancing wrap: “Aromatic Ayurvedic oils from India are selected to balance your specific dosha and are massaged into the skin after a light brushing. Afterwards, you are wrapped in warm, herbal–infused sheets, relaxing deeper as you receive a head, neck and scalp massage that will melt the stress away.”
Mii Amo Spa
Contemplating this jacuzzi. It was magnificent. . . followed by a steamy sauna and a cool-down swim in the outdoor pool beneath the red rocks.

Mii Amo Spa was a decadent treat.  In addition to the services, there were so many healthy food and beverage options that accompanied the treatments perfectly: teas, smoothies, fresh fruit, and amazing salads were just some of their offerings.  Click the link below for a short video of what it’s like to walk up to this facility.  If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you book a service and treat yourself.

Mii Amo vid


First Stop: Sedona, AZ


That’s aviation code for Charleston, SC to Atlanta, GA to Phoenix, AZ to Sedona, AZ.  When I travel, I love, luv, lurve falling back into my aviation speak from my flight attendant days.  It’s a silly little something that makes me happy.

Last week, my friend Lil and I embarked on a trip Out West.  In the planning of this adventure, many destinations were discussed, and our first stop was to be the new-age “spiritual vortex” of Sedona, Arizona, known for its Native American history and ancient red rock formations.  I consulted my NY Times’ bestseller 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and found the highly-recommended Enchantment Resort & Mii Amo Spa.

Enchantment View 180
Watching the sun set on the red rocks is a show-off moment for Mother Nature. There are so many colors, curves, and caves within the strata of the formations. Having a cocktail while watching this display just seemed right.It had been a long day of travel with the flights, navigating airports and rental car, and finding our way out of Phoenix to Sedona.  There’s equal part excitement, exhaustion, and elation when finding your way to a place you’ve never been.
Tired Me after a day of planes and automobiles and 5000 ft elevation. 56 degrees at night = sweater weather for southern girl.

Enchantment is out of the way. It’s not on the main drag of Sedona; you have to drive considerably past the city limits.  Tucked into the side of the formations, it’s very deliberate in its built-in appearance and feels like you’re a part of the red rocks. There’s an entire ecosystem of indigenous plants and wildlife.  On the morning we checked out, and we left early, I caught a glimpse of a pack of 3-4 wolves on the outer edge of the property.  I kid you not! Wolves!!! (which I was told later by a tour guide, is a very fortuitous sighting;).  There was the snake that Lil stepped on, on the way to our spa appointment, and there was plenty of roadkill on the winding roads that led up to Sedona: skunk, coyote, and deer, and badger.

Sedona prickly pear cactus
Prickly pear from the cactus is a beautiful purple fruit that’s used as an ingredient in many Sedona spa treatments and foodie + cocktail offerings.

Check in for my next blog: spa treatments at Mii Amo!

Where I Call Home

Is it travel, or is it a lifestyle?  I live here, but I never take this astounding natural beauty for granted.  Shem Creek is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve seen, and I get to call it home.  It’s my lifestyle, yet it’s a destination many people travel to.  Shem Creek is but one slice of the pie called Charleston.  Life on the creek, whether shrimping, fishing, boating, or any myriad other outdoor activities, is truly a way of life here.  It’s the early morning sound of tiny crabs scurrying out of your way if you’re in their pluff mud.  And that mud. . . it is the smell of home: Eau de Pluff.  There’s no other smell like it.  It’s how you know you’re here.

This past Sunday morning, I woke up at 5:20 am and my little voice told me to take my coffee to go, and walk down along the newly-completed Shem Creek pier.  It was worth getting up just for that 80 degree sunrise breeze.  And to watch the way the early morning light played against the creek, the shrimping boats, the restaurants.  Take a look . . .


Sunrise and still creek waters before restaurants get jam-packed.
More glorious sun rising.
Beautiful piers evidently have beautiful trash receptacles.
Early morning shrimpers casting their nets. Shrimp were running, too!
Downstairs at Vickery’s by early morning light.
This is a shot of the back of my neighborhood. The red roof is probably the largest house. Oh, the fantastic sunrises this home must see!
Looking across Shem Creek at Old Village homes.

Rugs. Of all kinds. . .

I love rugs and am drawn to all types: large ones, small ones, and especially runners.  I love small prayer rugs, and I love placemats that look like rugs, and area rugs, too.  Thin kilims are some of my favorites.  I like them all.   I like the feel of my bare feet on them; I love that my babies were raised on rugs.  They learned to walk, put together puzzles, and played with pets on them.  I’m challenged when it comes to interior decorating, but it seems to me that a great rug can be the anchor for pulling a room together.  I. Love. Rugs.  I now have a collection of rug-photos.  IMG_2377This rug is in the main house of Lowndes Grove, a popular wedding venue in Charleston.

IMG_5952This runner is in my hallway.  GDC is an interior design company in the Charleston area.  They have my favorite selection of rugs.


This is another runner that I adored but ultimately did not purchase.  It’ super-light, and it looked great against the blond floors.  I just wasn’t certain it was fair to this rug to put it in such a high-traffic, kitchen area where it would be subject to many spills.  Most stores like GDC will allow you to take a rug home to see if it fits well.


This rug was one my husband grew up with, and now it has been entrusted to us.  It started off in my dining room, but now resides in my bedroom, where I love it even more.  See the medallions in the middle?  The story goes that those are the elephant foot prints that carried this rug through the desert sands. . . (my mother-in-law will need to finish this story. . .)


Another beautiful runner.  This one was in a bed and breakfast in Denver as was this one. . .



I tend to gravitate to traditional Turkish, Indian, and Pakistani rugs.  Works of art, all.  These are all hand-loomed and knotted.  Except for this one. . .

This is a cute runner from a VRBO rental in Asheville.  It’s a machine-made rug, but I found it fun and well-placed, considering it was a rainy weekend.IMG_5416

Another runner from same VRBO rental in Asheville.  Look beyond it to see an interesting rug under the dining table.


Moving stacks of rugs to get a peek at the surprises underneath.  Above and below, from GDC.


And if you’ve made it this far, here’s a piece of eye-candy for you;)  This “rug” is indelibly etched on my brain from when I was only about six years old!  My mother had a very progressive girlfriend who kept risqué books and magazines on her coffee table.  My mother would disappear in her house through beaded doorways, and I’d be left to sit by myself in the living room or greenhouse.  So sometimes, I got an eye-full 😉


The divine Burt Reynolds, circa 1972, in Cosmopolitan magazine.  Photo by Francesco Scavullo.