Crystal Clear

How thin and insecure is that little beach of white sand we call consciousness. I’ve always known that in my writing it is the dark troubled sea of which I know nothing, save its presence, that carried me. I’ve always felt that creating was a fearless and a timid, a despairing and hopeful, launching out into that unknown. -Athol Fugard

A quick trip to Florida. The sand in these beaches traveled all the way from the Appalachian mountains…to the gulf. Tiny pieces of quartz, crumbled from mountain sides, polished while traveling down river thousands of years ago.


It was 30 degrees and windy…but just to look at it:


…in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth. -Rachel Carson


Home Sweet New Home

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. -Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

A few nights ago we slept in our new house. I woke up to the morning light streaming in through new $5 blinds and it just felt like home:


I haven’t written in a whole week…because there hasn’t been any time. We’ve been busy. Seriously busy. I still can’t believe how much we accomplished in just a few short days.  On kind of a whim I decided that I wanted to be in our new house at the very first of this year.  My mom was visiting and kept Boo entertained while Brett and I spent the last week finishing up projects, cleaning and painting.


I picked one color for the entire house…a light gray:


The entire month of December we had spent removing old radiator baseboard heaters…and they left a huge mess that needed to be patched in every single room…walls and floors:


There were three old heaters in the attic…all that weight is probably why there was a crack running through the ceiling. We recycled every piece of metal in the house and made a huge dent in a new furnace cost:

three heaters

We fixed the plumbing in the house and added new floor joists where old ones had been cut and weakened:

floor joists

And the new roof finally stopped all the leaking in the ceiling so we replaced drywall and patched those areas too:


Fast forward through all that to this past week: After selling off all our belongings in California we are basically starting from scratch (except for a gazillion books and boxes of art supplies). We don’t even own pots and pans. My mother gave us a few pieces of furniture that she had moved up from her house in Florida after my dad died. Our friend gave us a bed they didn’t want anymore, which is by far the nicest bed Brett and I have ever owned. I posted a photo on Facebook and Instagram and opened up a can of worms on whether or not it should be painted. Don’t worry it’s not painted…. yet:


We thought we would stay at the inn for at least a year but I’m like a river…I bend and turn constantly. Following the river’s path. We decided to go ahead and move from the inn since they are closed from now until April.  I knew in my heart one night … as we drove up the long winding drive: no lights, no cars, the inn was quiet and dark and suddenly in a deep hibernation.  It was going to be a very quiet winter up there for the three of us and I needed a little more space to work:

Me: So what do you like the most about the new house?
Boo: That I don’t have to share my bedroom with your books.

We were living in only 900 square feet and loved it but the best case scenario would have been to have a little more living area…which the new house has. We had started to move some belongings out of the cottage at the inn to make a little more space and we just kept moving and moving and decided it was right to just move it all. Move in. And we are extremely grateful to the entire Hemlock family for welcoming us in this past year. We got to experience behind the scenes at an inn, multiple weddings, and even the birth of their first granddaughter. Over ONE HUNDRED of you came to visit us at the inn and many of us still keep in touch. A few of you stopped me in the street just to say hi. I love that…meeting and putting names to faces. It was bittersweet leaving the little cottage we have called home for the past seven months. It seemed so empty when we left. Just a cottage again, not a home. And this past week I spent two days cleaning and painting to make sure we left the cottage better than we found it. Over the months we lived there we painted and caulked every single inch, cleared out the brush, planted grass, brought in gravel to make the driveway bigger and even installed a new septic system. That’s what we are taught right? To leave things better than we found them. If anything I hope we did our part in helping spread the word about this inn that marked my childhood so deeply and know will do the same for Boo.  I love that little cottage…it definitely has one of the most beautiful views.


And then there’s the view from our new home.  The first night at our new home felt just like that: home. For the first three nights we sat in the living room with the lights off and just watched the city lights below:


Phew. It’s been a lot of work. My whole body has been sore and I have bruises all over from “hard” labor.  It feels good but I’m due for a day of rest I think.  I didn’t think we’d be homeowners again so soon but this is the direction we’ve been led in…to these mountains. To our house on the hill.

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with al it’s stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home. -Annie Dillard, Tinker at Pilgrim Creek

I love this town. I love our church. Brett has found work he loves (more on that later). I continue to write and create and attempt to make a living at it all. And we will forever be growing up and growing old. Last Sunday at church I had this deep feeling of knowing why I have said yes to so many different directions: each direction is a blessing.  Now to keep listening to find what these blessings are to be used for. They will be used for something good, to tell a better story with our lives this year and to encourage others to do the same.

God, take my soul to that place, where I may speak without words. -Rumi


For all The House on Hospital Hill posts click here.  

For all Hemlock Inn posts click here. 



The End of the Season

Last night was the last dinner of the season at the Hemlock. The inn closes down for the next few months.  George, the cook, made a traditional New Years Eve dinner: greens for prosperity, black eyed peas for luck.  We are very grateful for all that we have and all that the Hemlock Inn has provided.  Exactly one year ago our move to a small town, to live at an inn for a year, was just a tiny “maybe” idea.  Over the past 6 months we’ve met guests from all over the world who visited the Hemlock and keep in touch with many of them still. We’ve immersed ourselves in the the small town of Bryson City and discovered the beauty and tranquility of the Great Smoky Mountains.  This all reminds me of what that man said to me at my first revival a few months ago:

You need to know….that in these mountains… are in a place of safety and refuge.

The Hemlock Inn


I still feel that here.  2015 will be a great year. Much love to you all. Thank you for following along with me on this journey.

This View

The road to our house winds up a hill towards the hospital (i.e. “hospital hill”)…and overlooks the small town. The morning light through the clouds makes it seem like a scene from a story book, like maybe from the Mitford series. You can see the Great Smoky Mountains passenger train warming up and the courthouse in the distance.   The small hill in the background is “schoolhouse hill.” The white building in the lower left is the old Nehi bottling plant…now it’s RC Cola…but you can still see the “Nehi” ghost letters left behind.  (and I mostly notice this because I love Grape Nehi).

I pinch myself each day. I really live here in Bryson City:

Bryson City


Good Friend

Left Boo with my mother and sister for a few days and Brett and I spent the day at the new house working.  This was my entire morning…cleaning grout and caulking.  A paste of Bon Ami and water did the trick and it looks like new again:



I buy the original formula…mostly because I like the vintage packaging. I’m easy to market to. Love this old vintage Bon Ami ad:

Bon Ami Ad


10 hours of hard labor from 9am to about 7pm today and I’m so tired this is all I can write. I’m going to watch Violette.  And maybe learn French in 2015.

Christmas Cheer

The last week has been a blur with lots of highlights sticking out.

Me: Where did all these gifts marked “to Boo, from Santa” come from?!
Boo: Oh, I made them.

Boo and I made a trip to the thrift store last week and she came upon the “FREE” bin.  All of my gifts from her suspiciously look like what she scavenged from that pile. I love that she’s resourceful at Christmas.

We made a quick trip to Mississippi to see Brett’s mother, sister and family:


We drove to Canton, MS one night to see the lights and parade:


Boo altered her Christmas list to include a puppy after spending a few days with 4 dogs…including this polar bear of a Pyrenees named Alex.


She didn’t get the memo that Santa is not bringing puppies this year

Me: We already have a dog.
Boo: I know, but I want a nice dog.

Diesel got a spiffy new haircut for his pre-Christmas gift:



And spending Christmas back in North Carolina with my family.  We haven’t had a Christmas with my brother and sister since moving to California in 2006.  My sister Perry is hosting this year:

It will be my niece Leighton’s first Christmas:


Creating new traditions for this family like making cookies: (do not touch the Gingerbread Man)


My mother has an elaborate Christmas nativity play planned with the grandkids.  She spent all last week planning out the costumes at the inn with us:



Have a very Merry Christmas!



The theme of the week at the House on Hospital Hill is drywall.  The metal roof is almost complete and so that means we can start fixing up the inside of the house without having to worry about water issues:

charcoal roof

Remember the wall I decided to take out on a whim? Brett and friends put it back together for me. Since this photo was taken the new hole edges have been finished with drywall and mud. We were lucky to find a small bundle of wood flooring to match ours at a local lumber mill to patch the floor.  It was all worth it…the new opening changes the layout and feel of the whole house:


Brett ripping out an old roof leak yesterday. That’s my grandfather’s old stool we’ve dragged all over the country.


We took out all the old boiler baseboard heaters which has required quite a bit of patching in the floor and walls:


Fixing all the walls has been my job…I’m becoming an expert in matching knockdown patterns using a piece of terry cloth and a vinyl sign. I’ll share that sometime after Christmas.  Keeping my lungs clean:


Trying to narrow down a “whitish” paint color for the house but still don’t have one that works with all the natural light we get. Modern Gray was too lavender, and Tahitian Vanilla was too yellowish. Still testing.

paint color


Outside a friend has been dropping a few trees so that we can hopefully get a garden planted this spring. Timber!


Sorry these posts are just short and sweet…way too much going on with the holidays right now.  You can also follow along on Instagram under #thehouseonhospitalhill.

All HOHH posts can be found here. 

That’s our progress for now!

The Christmas List

I always look forward to seeing what Boo puts on her Christmas list each year.

Four years ago she specifically asked for an office water cooler. It was so random we thought she’d forget about it. She didn’t.

Three years ago she wanted a bunk bed for her dolls. She got a handmade set from Brett.

Two years ago she asked for an American Girl doll, she was very specific: PF-1221 is the SKU number. She cried with joy when she found the box under the tree.  It made us cry too.


Last year she asked for Saige (an American Girl doll), and doll hair extensions. We tried to talk her out of it, gave her a dozen other ideas.  She nodded okay, but apparently only to appease us.  I miraculously intercepted a desperate-toned letter in the mailbox addressed for Santa a day later:


This year she’s asked for a doll typewriter, a doll wheelchair and a handful of books.

Her list is never very long, and she is always very aware that she might not get anything she asks for. But I hope she’ll ask for dolls and books forever. (Oh please ask for dolls and books forever.)

She loves her Keri Smith journal…so I ordered these for her…really wanting to order them for myself:

How to Be An Explorer of the World 


The Pocket Scavenger


We rode the Polar Express train last Friday and she had a blast but she still doesn’t really care for Santa. She got really nervous when he approached and she politely just said a “hi” and “thank you” as he handed her a bell.  She breathed a sigh of relief as he moved on to the next row.

polar express

She and I read all the notes that other children had left for Santa and we chuckled at this one (we do not know Abigail, but she loves cats):


We spent today picking out gifts for family and teachers. She was so thoughtful about each one, insisting on wrapping the gifts and writing the cards herself.  I spent part of the day making ugly Christmas sweaters for Brett and I and when I was done she exclaimed: Oh, they are beautiful! Not quite the reaction I was going for, but I love her enthusiasm.

And then there’s the tree she picked for our house:


It’s a twig.  Simple and perfect. She’s very proud of it.

Oh, and she’s been playing with her old Nativity set for a few weeks now. She calls it her “activity set” and spends hours telling us (and anyone who will listen) the story of Jesus’s birth.


She knows more details about Christmas than I could ever remember. And tonight she was asking Brett and I to “Google” what the chemical makeups of Frankincense and Myrrh are. Because those details might be important I suppose.

We are so blessed.

Easy Picture Frame Vanity Tray

DIY Vanity Tray using a Photo Frame


I made this easy little picture frame tray for my fall decor but now it doubles as my vanity tray.  It’s easy to keep clean and dust free and can be made out of any photo frame:


Picture Frame Tray

A collection spot for jewelry and perfume bottles that usually clutter my dresser:

Organization Ideas for Bathroom and Bedroom

Here is the same tray when it was being used to decorate the dinner table for fall:

fall table decor ideas and wedding table decor #wedding #falltabledecor #entertaining

I started with a raw wood frame knowing that I was going to distress it:


I used a “barn wood” technique that I’ve shared before on the blog: How to Antique and Age Wood Instantly.


I used my vinegar and steel wool concoction on the wood: [Read more…]


“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

I had the chance to take a workshop by Ellen Bass recently.  I learned so much from her about process: writing things down, the act of writing engraves the idea on your mind. Be willing to disturb the story you know.  I write almost everything down…so much so that it borderlines on hoarding. Everything is interesting. Everything contains poetry. Like the fact that the sun came up today, for the 4 bazillionth time is amazing in itself.  A miracle in fact. How does it even know where to come up each day? Like, what if one day the sun decided to reverse course?



t-shirt by A Happy Girl

Today’s word of the day for an advent series I’m doing (The Grove Church) is ACCEPTANCE. I think Ellen’s words sum it up perfectly:

“to love life, to love it even when you have no stomach for it and everything you’ve held dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands, your throat filled with the silt of it. When grief sits with you, its tropical heat thickening the air, heavy as water more fit for gills than lungs; when grief weights you like your own flesh only more of it, an obesity of grief, you think, How can a body withstand this? Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you I will love you, again.”
Ellen Bass

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