Monday, December 21, 2009

I Have These Days . . .


There are days, such as this one, that others think I am far stronger than I am.

There are days of self-doubt and wishful thinking for times and events in the future as well as times and events of the past.

Am I doing the right thing? Was that decision the best possible? Was it made too quickly? Did I delay too long? Would that I could know the beginning from the END! Or would I truly want to?

So, I go with my gut whose feeling is born of the wisdom of my elders, the experience of my past, the hopes for my future, the dreams blossoming in my heart and just plain common sense. Knowing I've not ever been perfect, nor will I ever BE perfect, I can accept my choices and plan for the best. If what happens turns out to not be the best course of action, I can readjust mid-course and set sail for a new course, a new destination.

(Although, my hair may much more less in quantity and/or shorter than it was before *smile*)

Life evolves, as I do. Which, as I might remind you here, is healthy. After all, have you ever smelled something stagnant? Anyone who knows me intimately, understands I do not sit still (unless my ankle is broken and even then I am challenged to do so). I do not stand still. Even physically, I move quickly and with purpose. I want to be on my way. Somewhere. Somewhere beautiful, fulfilling, fun and where there is love.

This is what I wish for those in my life, as well. If ever I can be a star ahead of you, at a place to where you've not yet gone, to guide you with the light that has come from my own experience, I am here. To listen, to encourage, to lift up.

I AM on my way. I will be SURE of my direction until something indicates to me otherwise, then there is the possibility that at that time, I will be incredibly UNsure :-)

But until that moment, you may still find me, on my way to the rest of my life.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Not Quite the State of the Union. . . but a State of My Life


Where do I start? The photo to the left could very well be one of my beginnings. It was a significant milepost in my life. You might say, this is a reflection of the last several months, somewhat of a "State of My Life".

I've been doing much thinking of late. You know, about my life and all?

About new beginnings. (Does that mean I have old endings? If I've started over, does that mean I ended under?)

I've realized that there are no do-overs but there are indeed start-overs. That I can begin anew (after I've ended a-old?). That nothing ever goes as planned but then who ever said it would or that it should?

Now, for an Oscar moment.

Beginnings. I'm thankful for them. I'd like to thank my parents for my very first beginning, for without them, I'd not be here today to begin again. There are many of influence who have been a part of each journey around the sun, who without, I'd not be here today. Literally.
Endings. I'd like to thank those along the way who were responsible for the many endings in my life, for without them, I'd not have had the strength, the courage, the inspiration or the need to start over. Many life lessons were learned along the way, making me the woman you see here before you today. Frankly, I like her and am thrilled to get to know her, continuing to make her acquaintance each and every dawn.
Other than the love of family and some friends, there is virtually nothing that remains the same in my story from last year's chapter to the new one being written. Not my job (figuring that out), not my marriage (it's no longer), not my home (it's a small apartment), not who lives with me (I am now totally alone without parents or kids or spouse), not the technology I am used to (learning Mac), not the part of the country in which I reside (now CO), not my finances (very poor but hey I'm not starving), not the weather (way colder here), not what I own (not much besides my car, wait the bank shares it with me), nor even who I am (which I might mention is indeed, the BEST part!). Yes, it is unnerving and extraordinarily sad many, many times and I remain cynical, quite hard actually, not able to open up fully to anyone. But you know what? This new chapter is also exciting! Challenging! An adventure! I can only be a BETTER woman because of it. Right?! Yes! You'd better believe it. Because I know it. I'm living it.

I am loving my life, as uncertain as it is at the moment.

What I do know with absolute certainty, is that I am okay, I WILL be okay. That I am loved.

None of which would be possible without the love and encouragement of many. The Many, who have joined me on life's journey from ALL walks of life, have entered through varied portals. Yes, portals even such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook :-) Someday, I may tell you stories of the parts each have played in my life. I am defined by numerous things, not simply any ONE.

And I am rich. My life exhibits a richness, woven with the unique threads brought into my life by those who I've met not only early in my life but also those who have graced my life with their presence in the recent past. For now, suffice it to say: I am blessed by each one of you. I would not trade you for all the tea in China or all the coffee at Starbucks. I love you. I am here because of you. I THRIVE because of you.

I am finished with merely surviving. Watch me. I am on . . . my . . . way!

Thank you!

Now, I would like to thank my loyal agent, my adoring and faithful fans and my hard-working publicist . . .

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stop Ducking the Zukes

This morning, I came across a wonderful sounding recipe from DDaisy, someone I follow on Twitter. The recipe is for Chocolate Zucchini Bread and is on her blog: Compost Happens. This prompted a small exchange with cityslipper about zucchini being the butt of many gardeners jokes. Btw if you are a Twit, or should that be Twitterer (?), you really need to follow cityslipper, too and check out his blog.

At any rate, I felt sorrow for the oft neglected and much aligned garden outcast, aka zucchini. So, I am here to stand up for "zuke" and shout it's merits to the world! Below is a recipe using this diehard (and yes, it isn't easy to make this plant die, it is quite prolific!) squash. If you do not tell the person eating it that it contains "zuke", they will not know.

The next time you see someone headed your way with this treasure, don't run, don't duck! Hold your hands!

So, go bake this up, let it cool, then sit down with a large piece and a glass of ice-cold milk. Chocolately and moist and cake-like, it is utterly delicious! Before you finish the last bite, you too will be a fan of this step-child of the garden! Stay-tuned for more recipes using zuke! You won't be sooooorry!

Brownies
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini (important! grate it into very fine shreds, i.e. NOT like a carrot)
Combine dry ingredients. Mix oil and egg. Stir into dry ingredients. Add vanilla and zucchini. Mix well. Spread into greased jellyroll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until done (the old toothpick test).
Icing
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup margarine
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix all ingredients together except chocolate chips in a sauce pan. Cook for 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved. Add chocolate chips. Beat well until chips are melted and then spread quickly on brownies.

I was going to recommend you cover the leftovers after you eat some but at my house they don't last that long! :-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Direct Sower of Seeds, I Am Not


Yes, it is waaaaaaaaaay overdue for the report on my seed experiment from the spring: direct sowing after chance of frost instead of starting my seeds in my greenhouse in the early spring.

Normally, I do not cut to the chase but today I will allow myself. So you are spared :-)

It was a dismal failure. For instance, the above photo. Now, in my defense, after I sowed these sunflower seeds we had mucho rain. Noah kind of rain. Maybe not 40 days but pretty darn close. As you can witness, I've moved onto other endeavors with the weeding of this plot being last on my to-do list. The viable beds being more important. I apologize for it's untidiness.

Seeds that were sown in the long border did nothing. Seeds I intentionally planted in my containers did not germinate (Maybe it was the seed vendors fault! Maybe I was shipped faulty SEEDS!). BUT the seeds that fell from the plants that grew in those containers LAST YEAR, germinated and did fine!

Seeds planted in the raised bed garden germinated half-heartedly so I threw some zinnia seeds that were hanging out in the garage into the beds there and they have done fine. I did discover that nasturtiums do not like the heat and humidty prevelant in my raised bed garden. This area has a microclimate of it's very own. However, I think I am on to something with herbs in that space and if I am here next spring, I will explore doing more with those. The birds love that garden and I would welcome opinion as to whether the seeds might have fallen prey to my feathered friends.

It's a mess, both from the storm the other night and my neglecting to pull out the bolted plants, but as you can see, some things have grown.



All in all, I have learned that direct sow doesn't work for me. More success was had when I started seeds in my greenhouse in early spring. Sure, it took more baby-sitting, or seed-sitting if you will, but the results were worth it.

Hey, you'll never know unless you try! Now, let's go get dirty! Happy gardening!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Confessions Of An Insatiable Chocoholic (or What I Do With MY Hershey!)


Green/Natural. Chocolate. Fragrance. Chocolate. Healthy. Chocolate. Tasty! Chocolate!

Need I verbalize how often chocolate has been on my mind of late? Anyone who knows me is well acquainted with my incredible love affair with the decadent sweet and also is aware of the fact that I am no longer a spring chicken!

How can I enjoy chocolate satisfaction without it either ending up padding my jeans or stuffing my arteries? Yes, I am aware of the health benefits of a little bit of dark chocolate once in awhile but forgive me, I am decadent in my use of chocolate. I want to eat vats full of milk chocolate, preferably German or Swiss. I want to bathe in hot chocolate. I want to load my shopping cart down with Hershey bars as I enter the checkout at WalMart. I want to feel the richness of it's taste as I devour a pan of chewy brownies or drown myself in a gallon of melted rocky road or cookie dough ice cream luxuriousness.

Okay, so you now get my point. If I were to indulge my fantasies, I truly would resemble Jabba the Hutt already (as a dear, sweet, annoying friend of mine implies quite often, I might add). But nay, I do not. Not yet as of this writing anyway.

Back TO the point, sorry I digress. Not only do I have to be considerate of the caloric consequences of my corpulent consumption of the confection but I must also be thrifty or the sheer amount of my purchases would break my emaciated piggy bank. Hmmm. How to enjoy this treat without having to constantly purchase a new "fat" wardrobe (girls, you know what I talkin' about here) and how to do it economically?

I will confine myself to using a readily available, low-cost, tasty brand. Godiva, Ghiradelli and many others are indeed delicious but more expensive to indulge in. To satisfy my constant cravings, I will use Hershey. I have found Hershey to be robust, silky smooth and deeply satisfying on all levels and compatible with my pocketbook. While I appreciate the finer points of more exotic chocolate, I found Hershey to be perfect for me.

Next, how to enjoy Hershey without sending myself to Weight Watchers or an early grave? Other than the obvious avenue of consuming the Hershey candy bar (btw, I discovered if I exercise with a Hershey I actually lose weight!), could I discover another way in which to luxuriate in it? Yes, I use it in my body scrub. Have you ever showered with anything Hershey? Personally, I have found it to be a divine experience!

Bath and Body used to make a bodywash and lotion called "Wickedly Hot Chocolate" which I used but it was available for a limited time only. Since then I have had to become creative in how to replicate a body product which was both good for my skin, green, inexpensive, AND smelled and tasted like chocolate (in the event I was starving to death in the shower and needed something to eat to sustain my very life! Not that I would eat it, mind you except in an emergency but I might lick my fingers before scrubbing!).

I came up with a body scrub recipe using natural/green ingredients from around the house to which I could add some Hershey's syrup for that luscious and decadent aroma of chocolate. It contained ingredients that are good for my skin, that exfoliate and moisturize while feeding my senses and not my fat cells! When using the scrub, I first wash with soap/bodywash and follow it up with the scrub, rinsing VERY well. Following is the recipe:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup oil

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup Hershey syrup

1/2 cup white sugar (more if you prefer a drier scrub but that makes it harder to use)

Mix and store in a container in the refrigerator, taking some out ahead of time unless you like a COLD scrub. Mark the container "Do Not Eat" or invariably a teen will come along and think it is brownie batter and eat it.

Please, mix up a batch and go enjoy yourself while treating your senses and your skin to a decadent experience. And if you are up for a little romance . . . invite your significant other :-)

(And yes, I did eat the Hershey bar :-) Just can't be around a Hershey and not eat it!)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Boy, Then a Man, Always My Son


He's 17. A man. A boy. Some days a boy in a man's body but more often than not, he's fully a man. Well on his way to adulthood.

I love both of my boys, my eldest is 22 but this is about my youngest.

Because of the late spring timing of his birthday, he enters his junior year of high school chronologically ahead of his peers, often more advanced/mature than his classmates. Yet not in all ways, he remains foolish at times, as we moms well know.

Lately, although he will tell you forever, I have struggled with his growing up. Struggled with letting him go. How can he be ready to face the world on his own soon, when he cannot even remember to pick up the wet towels off of the wood floor? Or remove the dishes with leftover food in them from his room before they become moldy? Weighty issues certainly. Is he ready for more independence? Is it time for his dad to step up more? Is that what a young man needs? Does he still need his mom in the same way he did ten, or even five, years ago?

A couple of months ago, I asked him if he needed me around anymore. He hemmed and hawed, trying to find a politically correct answer, a fragile balance between the truth and his mom's feelings. In the end, what he came up with was: I'd trained him well how to take care of himself i.e. doing laundry, taking care of pets, cleaning his room, studying for class and going to work. How, he asked, would he grow up if I don't now let him be more independent and put those skills to work? But, I asked, did he need me here in order for him to be able to do those things? No, he said, but he would like to have me around sometimes. I think specifically to make tomato-potato soup and mashed potatoes for him and maybe to schedule his haircuts and buy his deodorant.

His reponse has caused me to do much thinking since then, especially in the last couple of weeks. We had another conversation just this week at which time he read this missive. How tightly do I continue to hang on? Is it for him or for me? He's made some pretty stupid judgment calls but then so have I. Does he need help navigating the shoals in his life that threaten to wreck him? Does he need me day to day, literally onsite? Or is it more being available in his life when he needs me?
These last few weeks I've been faced with decisions about my own life as I close one chapter and begin another anew. I am dealing with the dissolution of my marriage and somewhat, my family. Wondering, do I stay in this toxic environment that threatens to destroy ME? Would my son be okay with his dad? Would he suffer if I moved to another place but was able to be local frequently?

Much more discussion needs to take place, but I've realized he will be fine no matter where I am, as long as we can be together frequently in person and always available by some kind of electronic media.

So, if knowing he will be not only fine but successful, I now begin to explore where I want to be: New England, Michigan, Colorado, even Ohio. Where? There are a myriad of factors to be weighed as I contemplate my own future. Each place having significant reasons to relocate there i.e. family, work possibilities, friends, quality of life, cost of living, etc. Some places calling to me more than others. Sooner rather than later, it looks like I can plan a change, which I am currently doing so. The next part of my life awaits. And with his blessing.

What I do know for certain is this: I raised a fine young man, independent and capable of being more so, as he nears graduation. Independent . . . but still loves his mom. I must relate a recent discussion we had. I had told him some truthful, yet disturbing news about me. He put his arms around me, told me he loves me and understands. And could I please fix some of my great mashed potatoes for his girlfriend for her birthday?

Told you he needs me for some important things :-)

I am proud of him. He can be launched into young adulthood no matter where I am physically, in relation to him. I can be available for him whenever and wherever he needs me, whether I am here or there for he is in my heart, and I in his.

He was a boy. Now he is a man. But he will always be my son.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Au Naturale


Natural.

Merriam-Webster defines it many ways but I suppose the definitions that speak to me are:

1. Closely resembling an original; true to nature; marked by easy simplicity and freedom from artificiality, affectation, or constraint; having a form or appearance found in the ordinary course of nature.
2. Growing without human care; not cultivated or artificial; existing in or produced by nature.
3. Having an essential relation with someone or something.

Natural, to me, denotes a freshness, a simplicity, uncontrived whether it is in relation to my food, my clothing, my environment, or my relationships.

Natural is the sweet, juicy taste of a sun-ripened melon or tomato as I bite into it. It's very essence dribbling down my chin. The heartiness of a whole-grain homemade bread with a savory soup on a cold winter evening giving sustenance to not only my body, but my soul, with it's warmth.

The cool caress of a linen dress on a summer day. The whisper of silk against my skin on a romantic evening. A thick, white cotton towel blotting away the droplets of water after a refreshing and leisurely swim in the pool.

The simplicity of the plants in the forest, the meadow, the mountain or the beach. Nature knows just how to wear her adornments for the best effect. Unfortunately, we have learned how to mess with her world and upset the balance, so that what was once beautiful is now destroyed by our excess and desire for control. I think of the pine beetle catastrophe in the Rockies and how if our natural world weren't so blighted by our chemicals, I can't help but think we wouldn't be suffering from so many of these disasters. This upset of what is natural, resulting in a landscape that will be forever changed. And that my friends is no exaggeration.

(Now, as I speak from my own personal soapbox, I must admit I struggle with being satisfied with the natural i.e. I cannot abide the natural color of my hair :-) But maybe if it weren't for the chemicals in the air, I wouldn't have to put them on my hair to rid myself of the gray! COULD pollution be the cause of my follicles ceasing to produce color?!) I digress . . .

Naturalness in relationships. A relationship marked by being natural is simple, freeing, joyful and fulfilling in the most beautiful of ways. It is almost "effortless" and when a relationship hits a snag and does require more effort, that effort is a natural extension of love for balance. To enjoy a relationship in which I can be myself, who I am naturally, and be not only accepted for it but embraced for it is pure heaven and a veritable utopia.
Live just as YOU ARE. No artificiality or constraint, throwing abandon to the wind and just reveling in the freedom of being.

Enjoy the natural. You will feel balance. You will create balance in your world for future generations.

But most of all, BE natural.

You will be loved for it with a depth that penetrates to your very core and overflows into your life with an abundance that is fullfilling beyond all measure or comprehension. This I know, because I am experiencing it this very moment.

So, today? Be you. It's a natural thing to do.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo aka I'm Confused!


Vacation. Yep. That is the second most consuming thought currently in my mind. The first being "I wish I was well!" I'm abysmally sick. So, what with the broken and sprained ankle, the unrelenting rain, and now suffering with the mother of all kinds of respiratory flu, the day is leaving me with much time to think (probably waaay too much). And I am thinking about where in the world I'd like to go. To keep my travel agenda better organized i.e. so I don't forget, I've made a list of where I wish to go and why:

Germany - My mother immigrated from Germany at the nubile age of 19. My father valiantly fought there in World War II. Both would like to share their history and the history of the country with me. It is a beautiful place.

Turks and Caicos - The beaches are to die for, life is luxuriously laid back and there are areas in which to relax in virtual, if not total, seclusion. You know what that means ; ) Photography! Yep! ; ) Of the natural kind . . .

Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia/New Brunswick - The Bay of Fundy is known for its high tidal range and the bay is contested as having the highest vertical tidal range in the world with Ungava Bay in northern Quebec and The Severn Estuary in the UK. Facinating! It must be striking to watch the tide come in and depart.

Prince Edward Island - Being a voracious reader of the Ann of Green Gables series of books, it is a no brainer. I still reread the books. Faeries and wood nymphs anyone?

New England - This is an area I frequent and NEVER tire of, especially Boston, the Cape, the White Mountains, and the Bar Harbor area. I am in love with Mount Washington (I would marry it, if it could manage to say 'I do'!) and it's extreme conditions but because of my cold-induced urticaria, I can only visit in the summer. Super bummer.
The coast of Florida - I love beaches. Nuf said! One of the Florida areas I like the best is Destin/Ft. Walton. I love the feel of the sun on my skin! Basking in the heat. A cool, fruity drink. Mmmmm. My daddy says it will kill me but I think I'd rather go that way than "baconating" myself to death like he is.

Williamsburg/Yorktown, Virginia - Colonial history is one of my hot buttons (touch it and see what happens!) and I must see life as it was (or as close as I can get to it) and where the Revolutionary War essentially was won. I simply must! Autumn with it's crisp air or Christmas with it's colors of joy would be an awesome time to revel in history past!

Alaska - The cruises are out for me, bummer, but I could do Denali and the southeast rainforest in the summer. I would LOVE to do this: http://www.alaskacanopy.com/ !!!! Photography on this trip would be amazing! Wanna join me?! We could zip right on out there!

Hawaii - Loved the first time! But who says the first time is always the best? I yearn to go back to see another island such as Lanai. The less commercialized, the better. The Kona coast of the Big Island is fabulous! Arid, no rain!

Negril, Jamaica - It has an out-of-this-world beach! Cliff diving at Rick's Cafe is exciting to either do or watch. And no, I won't go back to the Hedonism II with you this time either.

Australia/New Zealand - A land of contrasts! The lushness of NZ and the starkness of parts of Austrailia make for a thrilling time spent in two very different places and cultures. Plus, my favorite physical therapist is from there and he made me curious. Again, great photography!

Europe - There are areas of this old continent that appeal to me more than others. I mentioned Germany already. Other areas of interest include the gardens of England and France, the Italian countryside, the coast of Greece and the city of Prague. Spain and Portugal are maybe's but my grandmother used to go there and she often touted the fact that their beaches are topless. Let's remember now, she got me a nose job, not a boob job. And I am now 46 : ) Blech! Somehow topless and my grandma don't go together that well in my mind.

Every other year Susie, one of my very best friends, and I take a "chick trip" together. 2010 is our next trip and we are thinking someplace in Europe. We need to figure it out yet. Send suggestions!

I have been to every U.S. state but Alaska and enjoy revisiting most of them. Would love to head back to the Rocky Mountains (anyplace along the range), Black Hills, Salt Lake or my home state of Nebraska (the panhandle portion).

Decisions, decisions, decisions. I am not sure yet where I am vacating to in the near future, but I will let you know when I get back! If you'd like to travel with me, drop me a line! I love to pal around!

I would love to hear where YOU would like to visit and why! Pick a place and let's dream together : )

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Goldilocks Morning


Yes, it is a Goldilocks morning. The variety of which is usually only found in movies, art, or music. This day, it was apparently my good fortune to be in the middle of such a beautiful and moving composition.

It is early with getting Brawny Boy up and at 'em which is no simple feat in and of itself! While he begins his a.m. ministrations to get his cute carcass presentable for the girls at school, I lay on the sofa in the living room wishing I could be back between the sheets for it was a late night and will be a hectic day.

The windows of the living room are oriented to the rising sun which is quickly on it's way to it's daily zenith. The rays of sunshine stream into the room and over the sofa on which I relax. Liebchen is on her perch at the window, napping in the sun's warmth, waiting for a squirrel to make it's usual early appearance in the front garden looking for leftover acorns. Keira, not be be left out jumps up to join me in my morning appreciation, stretching her long puppy body on mine. At six months, her feet reach my ankles and her muzzle meets my chin. She lays here softly breathing. She likes the feel of her breathing, snuffling, underneath my chin, has done this ever since she was tiny. Her heart beats out it's strong, rhythmic beat against my heart. Since when did she get so heavy?

The windows are open, drawing the air from the front of the house to the back. There is a breeze, it is pleasantly cool and purely refreshing. Sounds of an assortment of birds play the music of nature and they sing of the newness of the day. Joining them in four-part harmony is my cockatiel, Oleo, making sure the world knows "Oleo is a pretty, pretty, pretty bird". Every once in awhile throwing even more "prettys" in there, when he is feeling especially "cocky" : ) He wolf whistles at my 83 year old father like a testosterone befuddled construction worker might whistle at a hot babe on the street. My dad says it's good for his ego and whistles back at Oleo to return the favor.

My eyes are closed in relaxation and wonderment "How is it that I am so lucky to be blessed with such a day as this?". What did I do to deserve this gift? Nothing. I woke up breathing.

For whatever the reason the world continues to spin on it's axis, I will accept it's bestowal of this time. Enjoying it, reveling in it, appreciating it. How I can take such life for granted is a gross act of selfishness. I will immerse myself in it, use it for good and LIVE it. Trying to spread it's joy to those I meet who see not the gem they have been given.

How do you feel about your day? How will you think of it as you move through it's portals? How will you use and enjoy it?

I am blessed you took the time to enjoy my morning with the the sun, the breeze, the birds, Keira, Liebchen, Oleo, my daddy and me.

Namaste. I wish you this day and I wish you well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Surprise of the Tree Peopy

The day I went to Little Rock for my non-existant hair appointment, it would have been a waste of time and gasoline if I didn't take advantage of the opportunity to visit my favorite plant nursery, River Valley Horticultural Products. YES, the nursery is good enough to drive approximately 225 miles round-trip for even when I don't HAVE a hair appointment. I usually make a day of it with friends eating lunch out, taking the truck for our haul. Having just the car that day, though, limited what I could bring back.

One of the plants I brought back that day was a tree peony (good place to mention that often I type peopy instead of peony but I mean the same thing). I'd been wanting such a plant for my woodland garden area, the sunnier portion, and this one was priced for clearance because the marker had been lost somewhere along the way. The nursery personnel had no clue as to it's color, etc. Not one to pass up a bargain, I bought the just emerging plant and took it home.

Eagerly, I anticipated it's bloom. Each day checking to see if there was a bud. When the bud appeared, checking for evidence of it's color. Have you ever in your haste, picked a bud and tore it apart for a peek at the inside? I resisted. I've done it before and it tells you nothing! So I waited. Patiently. Not something I am very good at, I might add. Just ask my orthopedist. The anticipation was exciting! Somewhat like Christmas, waiting to be surprised by what was in the package underneath the gaily decorated tre. Hoping for that Malibu Barbie, not Skipper. I was hoping for a peony with bright red blooms or some equally exotic color! Please, just don't be white! No plain vanilla! Not bland! Not boring old white!

It bloomed.

White.

Surprise! Off all the sorry luck. It was like getting underwear and socks for Christmas.

It unfurled slowly, first a ball, then a cup and finally a saucer. I watched it over a period of days. Surprised each day, at how large it was getting and when I thought the bloom had peaked, it hadn't. It continued to get bigger and bigger. The fragrance is heavenly, unbelievable, intoxicating. The color . . . elegant, lovely, delicate, classy, simply beautiful. Strong, for the 30 mile per hour winds are buffeting it to and fro. As you walk past the area, heading to the back of the house, or are exiting the car, you smell it. This small plant is only about 16 inches tall . . . and the blooms range from 6 to 8 inches across! Bigger than my daddy's hand!

Surprise! I abso-freaking-lutely LOVE this tree peopy! Peony! (Pronounced pee-O-pee)The outcome was not what I expected and frankly, it was not what I had wanted but I LOVE it.

And that surprises me.

I appreciate it for what it is, all the things I mentioned above. If we could do this in our lives with other things, people for example, think how much more content we would be. The tapestry of our lives would be more diverse, rich with experiences and broadend horizons. Think of how much more love and acceptance we would be blessed with. And Peace. That is what I want for my life and that is what it will be.

All because of an unidentified . . . little yet big . . . tree peopy. Surprise!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mission Possible, My Dear Watsonia


It was a dark and stormy night. No, wait. I'll go another night, the wind and rain will mess up my hair.

It was a dark and oh so extraordinarily, still night. The air was thick with humidity, the consistency of grits. If a tree fell in the forest this night, no one would hear as the sound waves would stop dead in their tracks, resisting penetration into the thick, night air. Regardless, STEALTH was still the operative word on this night of:

Mission Possible.

Not long before this night of adventure, I'd stumbled onto knowledge of a rare and beautiful plant. A plant, without question, I had to possess. It was not enough to gaze at it from afar via a photograph on the internet. After all, are photos ever really enough? Would you not rather enjoy an object of such fascination in the flesh and blood? Or in this case, cellulose and chlorophyll?

And what is that object of my affection, my dear Watsonia? Yes, that's it, it's elementary my dear, Watsonia! Watsonia!

The search began, countless hours and days I scoured the web like a gardener crazed, to no avail. If people grow this, where in tarnation do they obtain it? Well, you can kiss my aster! It came to me like a bolt of lightning out of nowhere! The one person to possess it in this land of plenty? CYNTHIA! Apparently, unbeknownst to the rest of the known world, she had procured it and cornered the horticultural market of this stunningly beautiful plant, placing it in her fine garden of one acre.

Suuuuuuuuuure, Cynthia comes across as friendly enough and generous enough with all of that pesky goatsbeard she tries to divest herself of, offering it to unsuspecting gardeners like myself. But she has a deeper, more sinister agenda with my dear Watsonia: a monopoly for herself.

For all intents and purposes, having Watsonia for myself was seemingly a mission impossible.

After much thought and counting of precious pennies, I determined a trip to South Africa to obtain the beauty (Watsonia, not Cynthia) was out of the question in my current financial straits. The only other alternative? A daring mission to alleviate Cynthia of the treasured flower. Guarding such a rare beauty would consume far too many of her resources and being the friend I am, how can I let her drain herself that way? Unselfishly, I plotted to come to her aid . . .

Later, after consulting adventure guru Harrison Ford, a wise guy, for tips on how to obtain such treasure, I ended up disregarding all of his advice as too dangerous and formulated my own plan. After all, what does he know about taking care of hair and keeping outfits clean while swinging on vines? I would have that plant, come you-know-what (my mama won't let me say that word, after all, I DO have standards) or high water. So I devised my plan and waited until the flower was in bloom so I'd know which plant it is (because she has such a godawful variety of them I had to be sure which one it was I was going to 'borrow' and her garden is large). Maybe I should have consulted a garden coach . . .

The night arrived in full splendor. (Why it was splendous, I have no clue but just wanted to say it). The stars were winking as if they knew my secret, that indeed that night, the flower would be mine! I drove what seemed like forever to her beautiful garden, into the depths of the unknown, somewhat like a holler in Kentucky, falling into nowhere at the ends of the earth. Parking my getaway vehicle behind some trees, I got out and advanced on foot to her garden, lit only by those damn stars that wouldn't refrain from going on and off. Where was the moon when you needed it?! Oh, forgot, I brought a flashlight! One of the solar-powered jobbies, as I am somewhat of a greenie. Funny thing about those, how do they work at night when there is no sun?

So, I went back to the getaway truck (because real women drive trucks) and got a battery-powered ungreen flashlight that actually worked, making mental plans to return the other one for a refund since it didn't work at night as promised.

Flashlight in hand, I advanced AGAIN, towards the prize, being wary of her guard cat, Tootie. I hoped that Tootie would recognize me from my picture on MySpace where I had seen her photo millions of times. She appeared to be mesmerized by the koi swimming gracefully in the pond (I couldn't actually see them in the dark but I did see them on video once and assumed they were still swimming) and let me continue undisturbed. Ever so silently, I worked my way around the garden, sometimes having to take to my hands and knees to crawl through the tangled jungle of unweeded nutsedge she so despises removing (you'd think she loves that stuff the way she grows it) and creeping over hostas. The nutsedge swaying over my head, I slithered along the ground, low on my belly on my reconnaisance mission. It was a fortuitous choice my wearing black that evening even though part of me looks pretty good in white and so I had thought of diguising myself as a moonflower. (The white would have been a laundry faux pas and who KNEW that black spandex and a cape would look THIS good at night?!). The process was made so much easier not having to drag my boot/cast behind me, the ankle healing just in time for me to wear my much-loved stilettos for this mission of retrieval. That darn clunky boot/cast/thingy would never have worked as part of such a stylin' secret mission outfit.

I rounded the pond. WHEW! When was the last time she cleaned the puddle?! I need to get Dan Eskelson down here on the double, Master Pond Scum Scrubber that he is . . . and learn her a thing or two!

Like I said, I rounded the pond and spied something. Something tall, something green (or at least I think it was green, everything looks black at night) and knobby at the top with what might possibly be solid masses of flowers. On target, I crouched down low, moving forward slowly, making sure Tootie the attack cat was still suitably occupied with her tuna casserole. Having satisfied my anxiety, I made a grab for the stem, pulling hard to wrest it from the ground, keeping the rootball intact. For as hard as the stem was and as heavy as the plant was, you'd have thought this was ironweed instead of watsonia! It felt as if it could be made of steel! That bugger must have hundreds of blooms up there for it was incredibly top-heavy, swaying in the night, back and forth and swinging wildly around, almost falling to the ground!! What a magnificent specimen! No matter, I had come this far, I was up for the task! I'd not been lifting weights for nothing! Weeks of preparation would NOT be wasted!

With the gold in my grasp, I made for the getaway truck, raced to open the bed cover, threw the massive plant in, dirt spraying everywhere in my haste before plunking it into a bucket of water!
But, oh no! Mercy me! I had to go back. I couldn't come all this way and not leave Cynthia a note! What would she think of my manners if she found out I'd been in the area and didn't stop? Grabbing a pen and pad of paper delicately decorated with a gardening motif, of course, and dictated a note to myself to leave on her door: "Hey Girly-Girl! Sorry I missed you. Stopped by but apparently you were otherwise occupied for I didn't see you anywhere! Let's have tea sometime. I'll bring lovely hats! Ta ta! Your bff, Garden Chick."

Slipping the note into the space between the screen door and the jamb, I danced an eager jig all the way back to the mission-mobile, anticipation lighting up my countenance as it does each and every time I get a new plant.

Getting behind the wheel, I could not believe my good fortune! To have the Watsonia in my grasp! Okay, in the truck bed. But to FINALLY have it in my possession! Such a monstrous one at that! The mystery of where to obtain it: solved! The mission of retrieving it: accomplished! All right, so a little guilt was niggling at the back of my brain but I knew of her hunger for new plants and I would send her some more of her first horticultural love: nutsedge (Seriously, I think she collects it). Maybe something else different mixed in, liiiiiiike maybe goats beard or 'knock-out' salvia, knowing she'd appreciate it even not knowing why she'd be receiving it.

Smiling all the way home, I mentally envisioned myself planting the new acquisition in my garden. The siting, the planting, the nurturing, the watering, waiting for it to thrive in it's new home. Such visions sustained me and kept me alert the entire way home. My hair was actually a freaky mess full of twigs and oak leaves (doesn't she rake?), my absolutely-to-die-for spandex outfit ruined beyond repair literally falling off my body, dirt smudges caked on my cheeks. Why, I'd not been that tore up since my last night of Shipe hunting!

Too sleepy to do anything other than fall into the soft arms of my awaiting bed, I thought like Scarlett, "I'll think about it tomorrow!" After all, it wasn't as if Mauro Media was beating down my door for a photo shoot or anything! (Although one could hope ; ) So, off into the land of slumber I went, drifting away into dreamland on a bed of the soft, red petals of Watsonia.

Waking into the sunshine of a blessed and glorious day, I slowly made my way to the computer with a light, yet nutritous, breakfast of champions, anticipating the installation of my new "find". Excitedly, I decided to share the fact with Cynthia that I'd "found" a Watsonia. After all, she didn't need to know where it came from and she'd be so happy for me, for we'd been discussing the search for so long. She wouldn't even notice it missing from the abundance of plants in that large garden of hers! I knew for a fact that she had three shipments coming from Bluestone Perennials ALONE anyway!

Hitting send after I'd penned the e-mail detailing my discovery, it was only a moment before she messaged back. She must've had caffeine this morning before going to her 9 to 5 to 9 job!

She wrote:

"I am sooooooo happy you were able to come up with a source that enabled you to get a Watsonia! I know how much I love mine and that you, being without one, grieved you to no end and frustrated the buhgeegees out of you. But after you plant it, would you please mind bringing my birdfeeder back?"

Drats! It must’ve been that damn cat, Tootie!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Seeds Are Coming! The Seeds Are Coming!


That is my ode to events in American history taking place on April 18-19.
The first of my few seed orders arrived today! If the weather will cooperate and hold until Sunday afternoon, I will proceed with this seed experiment.

It may be a trifle bit difficult but you would undoubtedly be surprised at what one can do while carefully crawling around the garden in kneepads. Think being out on Army maneuvers. To motate from one garden to the next with my supplies, I propel myself around in my garden wagon with my good leg. A process of transportation that works terrific! The garden wagon contains anything and everything I might need in the course of the planting, including my fountain Diet Coke from Micky D's and my iPod. Where there is a will, there's a way and there is nothing driving me like being out in my garden doing something!

Planting may take twice as long but then in my exasperation, I remember, it is about the journey, not the finishing. Although, I would like to complete the my planting before autumn arrives! Any hole digging I will farm out to an able-bodied young man such as Brawny Boy (my son). There are a few remaining plants to move. I'd like to complete such said work before the opening of the pool in May.

Here I go! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Raindrops on Roses . . ." These Are a Few of My Favorite Things



Recently, someone posted a video on FaceBook of a crowd of people overseas in a station breaking into dance and song spontaneously (yeah right, they ALL knew the exact choreography) to a song from the movie 'Sound of Music'. The song was 'Do, Re, Mi'. On occasion, when I hear that piece it naturally leads me to sing "My Favorite Things". The 'Sound of Music' is one of my all-time favorite movies. In fact, the album was the first I ever owned as a child.

A few months ago, I undertook making a list of MY favorite things i.e. the things that make me feel good (and then I don't feeeeel, sooooo baaaaaad!). When I need a pick-me-up, I consult the list as a reminder. On my list are things to see, touch, hear, taste, smell and do. Some I can do wherever I am, some I might need to go to. Some are near, some are far (' a long, long way to ruuuuunnnn!'). Some benefit just me (' a name, I call myself!), some benefit others.

But it is MY list. What would be on yours? I would love to know if you are willing to share : )

Smiling into the eyes of the man I love right before we kiss.
Walking on the beach at Cape Cod. ALL of the Cape.
Remembering, literally, the brown paper packages tied up with string my German grandmother sent me as a child.
Remembering time spent with my grandparents. *smiles*
Laughing from the belly.
Baking cookies to give to others. (Hit and run cookie drops!)
Visiting plant nurseries.
My sister's "chicken neck".
BUYING plants!
Autumn in New Hampshire.
Listening to music of many different kinds.
Eating chewy brownies and spicy spaghetti.
Watching it snow.
Holding babies.
Blue Naked with toasted bagels and cream cheese.
BEING naked! Ahhhh, skinny-dipping on a hot, sultry, southern summer night!
Taking photographs.
The smell of lavender, mint, lemon balm and rose petals.
Mount Washington web site.
Candlelight.
Chatting with my sister, Marsha.
Losing tonnage when I've put on a few.
Time with my Vitamin "G's"
Hiking in the mountains.
Giving or getting a wink.
Getting hot, sweaty, filthy and exhausted in the garden, taking a cool shower, lathering up and lotioning down.
Traveling (especially 'Chick Trips').
Calling up friends.
Visiting gardens.
Having tea.
Basking in the sun.
Susie and Linda's laughter.
A new garden magazine.
The Apple Dumpling Gang and Home Alone.
Chocolate everything.
An island in Maine.
Meeting new people.
A spontaneous hug from my boys. Good grades too!
Sitting on top of the Scottsbluff Nat'l Monument in the wind listening to the ages.
Cuddling with the dogs.
My mom's hugs.
My dad's whistling while he works.
Reading.
A hug from or chat with a teenager.
A walk in the woods of Washington, NH.
Hearing I'm loved.
Being in the pool on a Southern sunny afternoon.
Visiting history.
Learning about something new.
A walk in the park and feeding the ducks.
Just laundered sheets.
Getting a massage from Sue.
A fire in a fireplace.
Cooking for anyone who loves to eat (like college kids!)
Sand between my toes.
Volunteering in my community.
Hearing 'no cancer' once a year.
Listening to the mourning doves outside my window in the a.m.
Sunrise and sunset.
Indulging at a Bed and Breakfast.
Fountain diet Cokes from McDonalds (a medium fry and 20 ketchups don't hurt either).
Doing yoga.
Watching it snow out the window while laying in bed.
Early nights and lazy mornings.
Living in Colorado.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Seeds of Change


Seeds: another sign of change in my life. I've never ordered so many seeds in my life, not even if you were to add together all the seeds ever purchased since my diaperhood. I prefer plants already started by someone ELSE and nurtured until they can withstand transplanting into my containers and gardens. Being ready to bloom when they are planted is a nice plus.

A year and a half ago, I put up a 9 x 12 greenhouse from a kit. It looks quite nice actually. This was the first step to my becoming a "grower". Grandiose plans and high expectations had I! This also provided a way for me to winter-over my tropicals, of which I'd amassed many since my inspiring trip to Hawaii. All throughout the winter I faithfully kept it heated and watered, nursing my tropicals along and tending to the seeds that had been started in trays and various pots. Wouldn't you know?! Surprisingly, the seeds actually grew! Okay, the SECOND batch grew, after I cooked the first batch because it got TOO hot in the greenhouse. Greenhouse experiences are another topic.

The first try at growing plants from seed was moderately successful. Many lessons had been learned and I looked forward to trying again for spring of '09.

What is that old adage about good intentions? For numerous reasons, winter was not conducive to getting a head start. For other reasons, my gardening budget for this year is severly limited (ugh! you might just as well cut off my oxygen supply!). Purchasing "already grown plants" was not going to be an option this year for annuals or perennials. In addition, I felt I needed to work on my character, patience specifically. I could use a lesson in non-instant gratification and taking my time (am not that great at waiting). The answer to my horticultural and budgetary dilemma was seeds.

Now, I've never done this before, so I will keep you updated on how it goes, but I am actually direct sowing all of my seeds this year either into the ground, the keeping bed or my containers. No messing with the greenhouse and flats. No buying already grown plants. The annuals will not be blooming in mid-May and the perennials will not bloom until next year but it will be good for my character development and of course, my bank account.

I will be brutally honest about my success or failure, what worked and what didn't. I will include photos if or when the seedlings emerge if they make it that far. Frankly? I am nervous. Will this define me as a gardener? Let's hope not!
I welcome any and all tips.

Wish me luck and we're on our way . . . we've only just beguuun . . . .

Stay tuned!
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." - Ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

True Confessions: Garden Shame



What was that commercial jingle when I was a kid?
"Curlers in your hair! Shame on you!" Seems to me it was for a Dippity-Do ad or some such thing? Well, it might not be for curlers in your hair, but we usually experience shame at some point in our life. Sometimes it is over important things and sometimes it is over the ridiculous.

The other day, I happened across a 'tweet' referencing "garden shame". Now what is garden shame? Webster's says it is (excerpts):

a: a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety
b: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute
c: something that brings censure or reproach

Now, how on earth could anything like that be coupled with the endeavor of gardening or the garden itself?! Yikes! In my humble opinion, if something is growing in the garden, it is a miracle, a thing of beauty in and of itself. I sensed from what I read in this tweet, the garden shame arose from a comparison of garden appearances i.e. my garden doesn't look like Martha Stewart's or P. Allen Smith's garden or maybe even a neighbors. Doesn't that seem an unfair comparison?

As I sit here, I ask myself a few questions: Should I feel shame because my garden does not look like someone else's garden? No! My garden is a reflection of me. Am I to feel shame about myself? No! Am I a work in progress? Yes! Is my garden a work in progress? Yes! Do I have a professional gardener on staff? No! Do I have loads of time to sweep my garden clean of dirt creating an impeccable space? No! Would I, Me, Myself really want to? No! (because as we know, I like being dirty!)

If my garden were perfect, why would I need to learn, try, grow, reorganize, experiment? Where would be the fun? The "growing" experience? It may be an overused and much maligned cliche' but gardening is a journey, not a destination. If your garden becomes "perfect", seriously, you need to start over!

We are not all born to our mothers to know instinctively which plants harmonize in regards to color, texture, growing requirements, etc. nor have we all been able to obtain esteemed degrees in horticulture or design. BUT, we all CAN learn by educating ourselves through various means to become competent, if not proficient, at doing those things! Would you get to interact with other gardeners (hello tweeters!), spend billions of dollars on books, read magazines when we should be working, reorder plants to fill the bare spots made by the plants we killed or spend countless hours learning, sharing, and enjoying? Besides, design and what is pleasing to the eye can be quite subjective, opinions varying from person to person (the only person you HAVE to listen to is the city inspector if you let your grass get too high and then his opinion counts unless you want to be fined). What looks good to me may not appeal to anyone else. I like that Cereus giganteus (saguaro cactus) next to the Louisiana Iris' ! Not really but you get the picture : )

In addition, consider when you began to trod the path towards becoming a gardener. Did you learn from your grandma when you where knee-high to a grasshopper or did you begin late in life? Are you a Jedi Master Gardener with the "Force" being with you or are you more like Larry, Curly and Mo when it comes to natural ability? Janet Carson who has degrees in horticulture and has been doing it all of her adult life is farther ahead in experience and understanding than I am. Although I have "green genes", my DNA didn't make itself known until I was 28 which was 18 years ago and I still come up with hideous plant combos and plants that inexplicably die. I dare you to ask me about "the Chocolate Garden".

So, if you are having problems with garden shame, don't. Do not waste your time, energy and precious brain cells, save it for something that deserves that kind of angst and self-recrimination. Love the garden you have and garden the way you love. Gardening hopefully brings joy, provides helpful therapy and an outlet for expression, not shame. But if you are affected and suffer some shame, it might help to follow a good 12 step program, here I'll get you started:

Step One: I do not really make plants grow, God does. And we know God does not make shameful gardens. Repeat after me: I feel no shame.


Speaking of which, the only garden in which shame was an integral part and understandably so, was one named Eden. And it wasn't because the plants didn't look as good as those in the neighbor's garden (soooo, maybe they didn't have neighbors yet). Who wants to keep up with the Joneses anyway? All it gets you is a bad-ass recession!

Just to show you I do not feel shame about my garden even when I am neglectful of it and it doesn't look like the New York Botanical Garden, I posted a photo of my shrub up top. Yep! It is a 'Juniperus 'Andora Compacta' (purple bronze at this time of year). Can you tell? I just happened to not weed the bermuda grass that kept comingu up in it the entire summer and it looks p-r-e-t-t-y nasty! But hey! Life happens and it wasn't a priority at the time but the fact it survived being taken over by the "devil weed" is a miracle! And THAT, my friends, is beautiful! While I am at it? Although I make every attempt to garden as organically as possible, I have another true confession: I use halsulfuron on my nutsedge, prudently, but I do.

And I say . . . I feel no shame!

Your garden is yours. Comparison only creates envy and that kind of green doesn't grow, it only destroys. So enjoy your own garden without abandon and do your best with what you have. It is enough.

And repeat after me . . .

Friday, March 27, 2009

Viva Las Vegas?


Originally, I envisioned my missive about the International Master Gardener Conference to be a daily posting of the happening of the previous day. BUT, something unexpected happened to change my plans which I will get to in just a bit.

The flight, albeit long was fairly uneventful as flights go and in spite of a four hour layover, managed to end without crashing in the strong winds we encountered upon landing. Frankly, I wanted to kiss the pilot and would have, if not for that whole locked cockpit door thing they have going now. Unexpectedly, the desert air felt as if it had a recent infusion of arctic air and to think I packed shorts, halter tops and bikinis :(

Monday was the first full day of the conference. It consisted of the traditional welcome to the community and some interesting statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture followed by a keynote speaker, Jeff Lowenfels, who spoke on a topic I've been curious about for some time now: mycorrhizae. I also bought his book "Teaming With Microbes" in order to attempt to understand the science behind his lecture. Although I did not realize it at the time, I realized later that he is not a scientist and so I must look closely to make sure his assertions are backed up by science. I look forward to the read.

The second half of the morning was taken up presenting various awards to MG groups for their projects. Among them: a children's garden in Lafayette, LA, a series of backyard ecosystem workshops in New Castle, DE, an inmate veggie garden in Kane Co., IL, organic gardening brochures in Toronto, ON, a waterwise garden in Sandoval Co., NM, a gardener's companion calender in Placer Co., CA and Junior MG awards for Menard, TX.

A choice could be had for either lectures or tours for the afternoon. When attending a conference of any kind, I pretty much choose lectures/learning over tours/visiting. The first session was on Latin names of plants. Although I picked up some trivia, it wasn't what I'd thought it would be and was mildly disappointed. Clearly the presenter was knowledgeable but did not share with us much as to how to understand the latin names and finished in only 30 minutes of the 60 minute session.

My second session was "Art From Found Objects". It sounded fun! It was entertaining and inspiring. While I am not a person who likes mega amounts of ornamentation in my garden space, I did come away inspired and amused. The photos are not the best since I took them of the powerpoint screen but I am going to post them so all can see some of what she collected. You may see them here as soon as I get them posted this evening.

The third and final session for the day was "Community Gardens 101". I had been anticipating this lecture for awhile! Some gardeners in my community are interested in starting a community garden here in Newport for those that are being hit hardest by the economic crisis. This HAD to be filled with information and resources! Right? Wrong! Some parts were dry and the others were inspirational (the guy HAD to be a preacher in his off time) but in the end, we did not come away with any nuts and bolts to build our gardens with.

Truly, I wish I had gone on the tours this time. Oh well, Tuesday morning would bring those! Breaking with my usual habit, I did decide to go on two tours to four different gardens instead of lectures on Tuesday. I was jazzed! Then dinner and a show that night!

Tuesday dawned cold and windy, what I was coming to expect from Las Vegas in March (*sigh*). I dressed warm but very snazzy and accompanied my fellow gardeners to the waiting tour buses. First stop, a home in a subdivision where all the homes look alike. You definitely don't want to try to make your way home on your own if you are drunk because you'll end up in someone else's bed!

Driving into the neighborhood, we all looked at each other because, surely, these tiny lots could NOT house a garden for a tour. The space was very small indeed. Surprisingly, it showed what you can do with a small space but we were still puzzled about it being a tour stop at an international conference. I will mention, the hosts were wonderful, the gardens were impeccable and the plants were well-labeled!

On to the next stop: a two acre garden. My juices were flowing in anticipation of THIS one! About all I can tell you about this garden is: nothing was labeled and what we had been told should take an hour to cover, only took 30 minutes. BUT, that was just fine with me. For upon arrival at this garden, the bus driver did not lower the bus for my exit after I'd had to reboard to retrieve something resulting in my falling off the bus, not expecting the long drop-off. Making a long story short, my right ankle broke and sustained significant tearing of a number of ligaments. Hence, why I was glad the tour only took 30 minutes instead of the aforementioned 60 expected minutes. I felt shocky but didn't want to be any trouble so I waited on the tour bus. (Shhhhhh! This is my story and I'm sticking to it! My dad doesn't need to know it happened table dancing!)

After returning to the resort, my state coordinator Janet Carson took me to the emergency clinic for treatment. Traveling alone, I have no idea how I would have managed without her assistance i.e. getting my meals, helping me pack, and transporting me. She was a Godsend! The new perspective I have gained as a 'handicapped' person was enlightening. Many a kind stranger helped me all the way back to Arkansas and for them I am extremely thankful!

Needless to say, I cancelled the rest of my trip and conference attendance to return home. Not exactly a stellar time, nor what I'd expected. Numerous comments were made regarding how much better the Little Rock conference was two years ago compared to this one. The accomodations were a disappointment in Vegas. For less money, I could have stayed at the Bellagio and will when I return next time.

The Neon Lights Tour on Monday night was fun! Take it if you end up in Sin City.

The changes which have taken place over the 20 years since my last visit were phenomenal! And while I did not have the vacation of my dreams, I met some terrific people. I look forward to seeing more of Las Vegas and doing the photography I missed upon my return . . . someday.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane (better be a jet)


"I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know if I'll come back again . . ."

Okay, so the verbage isn't EXACTLY right : ) But you get the picture that I am going someplace. That "someplace" is the International Master Gardeners Conference in Las Vegas, NV. I will be there from tomorrow until Friday and I simply cannot wait! What could be better than a vacation in Vegas surrounded by plant-loving people?! Not much!

The conference consists of pre-conference tours, workshops, lectures, garden tours, a trade show, food and lots of time for networking. In additon, instead of taking the post-conference tours, I am electing to rent a car and head into the desert to do some photography and sight-seeing of my own. When I explained to the parentals where I was going and what my plans were, it became apparent to me that my daddy is watching waaaaaaaaaaay too much CSI. Two hours later, he is calmer but not extraordinarily so. He has always thought I was his 9 year old ill little girl but now with his dementia, I think HE THINKS I am 3 years old :( Trust me, I will be safe. I do NYC by myself, I can do this.

Anyway, I digress. Given that my time will be spent having an absolute blast (!) I don't see myself as having much opportunity to tweet or blog unless it is late night. BUT I will share what happens at the conference with you and any photography I am able to do, upon my return (if I come back :).

This trip is special in another way as well. Going to Las Vegas, especially right before my birthday, has added significance. The trip is a celebration, a marking of a new birth in my life: of me. It is the beginning of my new life, one filled with hope, promise and joy. All things have changed recently in my life, some good changes, some painful changes but they all are part of who I am and where I am going. THAT new start is something to celebrate and embrace. What BETTER way to do that than doing what I love with people who share my passion?

So, see you later, adios, sayonara, arrivederci, auf wiedersehen! Happy spring and joyous gardening to all!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Garden, Gardeners and Garden Shows Oh My!


"It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? Could you be mine?"

Of course you can! If there is one thing I know about gardeners, it is this: no matter where you live or what what your zone (even if it's the twilight zone!), no matter how far away it is, no matter the gender or style . . . we are all kindred neighbors. There is something about getting dirty in the soil that brings us all together. The earth is a bonding place.

This has been a Garden Circus Week for me and while I could go on for hours and literary miles, I will try to contain myself :) Let me elaborate.

The promise of spring brings with it a bevy of garden shows around the country. Here in Arkansas, there is the "large" one in Little Rock (I use the term large VERY loosely) and even smaller county shows usually put on by local master gardeners which enjoy a very active and healthy following in my state. Last year I attended Philly and was disappointed in it's lack of practicality, monotony in repetition and ridiculous vendors. The presentations were wonderful, I must admit (Joe the Gardener was there and you must SEE him if you haven't already!). I was offered the opportunity to attend the Chicago show this year but the price I would have had to pay in order to attend was too high. So, this year I've had to live vicariously through other's experiences and their blogs, which indeed, I have been doing. I will say though, that although there are some shows I clearly did not appreciate in their entirety, I am able to take away something to inspire me in some way.

For me, the creme de la creme comes this next week. Sunday, I leave for the International Master Gardener's Conference. It is an every other year event held in different locations and I look forward to see what the desert hosts show us! Master gardeners tend to be focused on plants, sharing and the down-and-dirty nuts and bolts of gardening. THAT is what I LOVE! This will be an ENTIRE resort filled with no one but gardeners!

Which brings me to gardeners. A gardener of recent acquaintance, Garden Wise Guy, posted a YouTube link on his blog to show what is involved in physically putting together a garden show such as the one in San Francisco. The video was provided by Jayme Jenkins. If it weren't for the ingenuity of these fine people, the second-hand experience would be beyond my reach. I thank them for not leaving me stranded in the horticultural wasteland in find myself in out here on the delta.

The internet has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing gardener friends! GK, Cynthia, Hoodsie, Amanda, Michelle, Scott, Ian, and countless others. Again, if I expounded on each of them, well you know, the literary miles thing. Some friendships have even transcended the internet. I count myself lucky to have gotten to know them. All of us can learn from one another regardless of the level of gardening knowledge we feel we do or do not possess. Man! It is exciting to learn from each other!!!! I get soooooooo JAZZED about this part of my life!! Just give me some dirt and plants and I am SET!

Discovering the web site "Twitter" has allowed me to meet some fascinating people, mostly gardeners and some photographers, who have blessed me in the short time I've come to "know" them. Their garden advice, their compassionate thoughts, and funny life-advice have enriched my life in a short time. As I mentioned above, there is something about our love of the earth and growing things that bonds us together. Ahhhhhh, there is NOTHING like a fellow gardener! Certainly, I have learned that if we band together we can even help influence the gardening policies of the White House! There is nothing we cannot do. Now that there will be a garden at the National Residence, let us gardeners move on to helping our government take care of this recession thing :)

Gardens. For all we are about, for all we converse about gardening, it would all be just words if we did not apply our hand to the proverbial plow, so to speak, and create gardens. The culmination, the manifestation of our green madness: our gardens. No matter how big, 15+ acres, or how small, a container on our balcony, we grow gardens. We take pride in them, we enjoy them, we work them. In doing so, we grow, we heal, we pleasure in them and we share with each other. Across the fence, across the street, across the internet, across the miles.

I thank gardens for bringing us together. Sometimes I wonder, if everyone did gardening of some kind, if the world would be a less bitter and angry place? Would it culitvate peace and peas? Flowers and friends, instead of discord and enemies?

There is a garden I am growing on the corner at my business. It is at the third busiest intersection in our county and therefore highly visable, as am I when I am tending it (note: wear highway orange for safety, not my usual uniform!). It has furnished much enjoyment for the community and inspired others to created spots of green of their own along the highway. There is no end to the stream of people who stop in to comment on the garden or ask questions about the plants. This garden is raising awareness. A small garden can have big and far-reaching results. Even the number of cigarette butts being tossed out the car windows at the stop-light there have decreased significantly!

It doesn't take much to create a starting place for change in this world, in our communities, in our sphere of influence, does it?

But then, we gardeners already knew that :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To Tatt or Not to Tatt: A Journey of Self-Discovery


A mighty, weighty question.

Recently, I posed the question on Twitter whether I should get a tattoo, go on an exotic vacation, get a new car, etc. to celebrate the recent monumental changes in my life. Hands down, the concensus was to acquire a tattoo. Now an explanation of why this is something that requires much consideration on my part.

All of my life, I'd pretty much been taught that tattoos were body mutilation along with piercing. Now before anyone goes and gets upset, hello? That just happens to be the environment in which I was raised out on the windswept, rural, prairies of western Nebraska, a very ultra-conservative place. The only people who ever got tattoos where guys who were sailors, truck drivers or Hell's Angels. So, see where I got my thinking? And because I have been none of those . . . well , the thought just never crossed my mind.

So, when raising my boys, I taught them the same thing, horrified at the thought of my sweet little fair-skinned boys coming home with permanent black ink somewhere on their body looking like a biker. I about passed out when my eldest came home a year ago with his ears pierced. Again, only girls do that, not boys. Remember, I am from Nebraska.
But times change. And no, I am not having a mid-life crisis as my father seems to think any change signals.

All right, here's where it gets strange: I am seriously thinking of getting a tattoo. Me. The tattoo-averse chick from the prairie. Of late, it has not been a fleeting thought, it has actually been a thought that hounds my thinking! And yes, it is even titillating to think of doing it!

Now, for the extremely mind-boggling part? If this is something I were to pursue, I am actually thinking I want a snake! Yep, I fear snakes like I fear nothing else. I hate snakes. All I have to do is to look at a photo of one and that night I am haunted by vivid nightmares about them. Think of the Lonesome Dove scene where the horse is crossing the river . . . yeah, those are the stuff my dreams are made of when it comes to vipers.

About the snake and where I'd put it. I don't want a little one. I want a whipcord-thin-slim, long, black asp slithering gracefulling down my spine to the middle of my hips with the tail curling slightly onto my shoulder-blade. Classy, simple, elegant, mysterious. Of my own design. Or one like above (without the copyright info).

All of this confused me to say the least. So, I took it to my counselor. Yeah, I see one. So what? She's simply fabulous! Anyway, I shared my thoughts about it with her.

We discussed this at length. Our final take was this: I've am basically a free-spirt who has been living in a box of other people's making for far too long and the last few months have been letting myself be me, just me. In addition, I have a desire to express who I have come to know as "me" in a tangible and visible way. The choice of the snake may be a way to express my embracing of the things I have previously feared in my life. By putting it on my back instead of my arm, I display this but do not have to look at the snake all the time. It makes sense.

Still, the jury is out on whether I will acquire the ink and if I do, what form it will take. My friend "C" said she got one when she was 21 on her hip, it was Mickey Mouse. Now that she is older and has put on some weight, it now more resembles "Dumbo", the ears are larger :) I suppose one needs to be careful and think ahead when choosing the design :)

If you'd like to visualize what it would look like, check http://tinyurl.com/d8gajo If you wish, feel free to express an opinion of whether I should consider it, what and where. Doesn't mean it will change my mind, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

A great amount of thought will be given to this, more so than I'd anticipated. It might mean more to me at 45 than 21. And maybe I will continue to wait until my journey of self-discovery has logged a few more miles.

I'll let you know!

Friday, March 13, 2009

To Spread or Not to Spread: The Musings of Garden Chick

Okay. So I muse. Big deal. Sometimes I muse about vital things like the recession (which I cannot control) and sometimes I like to muse about things less serious

I LIKE to muse.

Take for example, this afternoon.

I was vigorously toweling off from my shower. Always starting with the hair, creating that messy-just-stepped-out-of-the-ocean look, and working down my body, wisking away fine droplets from my moisture drenched tan skin and that's when I noticed IT. A fine blond hair above my belly button , aka navel, but henceforth to be refered to as 'button'. Now, my belly is covered with blond peach fuzz as I would guess most bellies are, (aren't they? please let me know if I've been misinformed) but this piece of peach fuzz obviously had it's own DNA telling it WHAT to do. Because it was not 1/16" long, it was clearly 1/2" inch long. Completely had a mind of it's own! I could not let it stay that way.

Now, you might ask, what is she getting at? Beeeeee patient, I'm getting there, I'm just on the way to my shoes!

So then, back to my musing. I pull out a small pair of manicure scissors and attempt to cut it off to match the rest of it's buddies. And during this artistic act of restoration, I pinch my belly with the finger holes of the scissors. OUCH! What was that? Don't ask me how I did it. Well, when I bent over to see if I'd mortally wounded myself, I saw what appeared the be the round head of Casper the Friendly Ghost!

Huh? You ask? Well, as I bent, my belly button opened up slightly and surprise of all surprises (another blog coming on surprises)! It was white! Gasp! This can't be! (see photo of my normal navel at http://www.pbase.com/gardenchick/image/99927182)

You see, I've been tanning for my upcoming trip to the desert. Noooo, you don't have to be tan to go to the desert! But I want to lay by the pool and not blind my fellow swimmers with my lily-white winter shade of epidermis!

Okay okay. So here is where I start musing: when you are tanning, are you supposed to hold your belly button open?

Now, when I was in college, I had a friend that liked to lay in the sun. Alot. She had it down to a science, a skipping-science-class kind of science, to bask in the sun for long periods of time. Anyway, she was so extraordinarily preoccupied about what would appear white and what would appear brown, that as she reclined on the blanket there in the park, she would spread her fingers and toes so the spaces between would match the rest of her.

Well, now I get it! Because who wants to wear a bikini and have a white navel?!

So, is the answer to spread or not to spread?

Will anyone notice? Will anyone care?! Okay, so maybe no one will probably get close enough to see but I will KNOW! Am I being paranoid? Maybe, but I happen to like my button. In fact, when I had my gall bladder removed (very unglamourous subject), they were going to put an incision above my button. I said NO. That would look positively disastrous! "Go THROUGH the button", I said, which they did :) Well, I suppose this is a nonsensical issue with the other goings on in the world (which worry me too, btw) and one might think it isn't worth musing about.

But . . . I'm going to hold it open anyway, along with my fingers and toes ;) Because unlike the recession, THIS is something I can control.

Does Blondeness Extend Beyond Roots?



Stardate: March.10.2009

Mission: Pursuit of great hair. For the last month . . . it has been elusive. Not a single day has it been sighted. In the mirror. In the window. In my mind. I simply must possess this great hair. Without it . . . there is no hope. Not even from Obi Wan Kenobi.

Target: Little Rock, Arkansas. Lying 97 miles southwest of my location. For blonde hair. Bottle blonde. The kind of blonde technically not given to blonde moments.

Contact: Jennifer. Paul Mitchel stylist. Gifted. Booked up the wazoo.

Report: Rushed morning. Don't comb hair (why should I?). No make-up (in a hurry). Old t-shirt (don't risk getting color on important top). Must arrive on time. Be finished on time. Another mission to be accomplished upon my return with non-negotiable ETA. Drove like a bat out of hello. Construction notwithstanding. Arrival five minutes late. Jen nowhere in sight. Concerned. Waiting. Rest of salon staff think I'm a homeless person parked on their bench out of the rain. Could be. They go to call Jen. I pull appointment note out of bag. SHIT. Instructions said Wednesday. SHIT again. Blonde moment.

Oh God. Beam me up Scotty. Please.

Clearly without the blonde for one more day. Decide to make hay while sun shines. Okay. It wasn't.

Mall not an option with looks like that. Universe was wet enough. Didn't dare cry. Went another 14 miles to favorite nursery in the galaxy in pursuit of consolation. It worked. They know me, didn't care what I look like (looked like been rained on and just coming off a 7 day gardening marathon), felt sorry for me, gave me golf cart, let me busy myself for two hours. Plants have a way of cheering me up. Ask Wall-E how well that works. Logged 222 unnecessary miles at a very unwarp speed.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stardate: March.11.2009 (correct Stardate)

Mission: Pursuit of great hair. Again.

Target: Little Rock, Arkansas. Lying 97 miles southwest of my location. For blonde hair. A bottle blonde, increasingly given to blonde moments.

Contact: Obi Wan Jennifer. Stylist of those possessing the Force (those forced to drive another 194 miles second day in a row for their hair). Yes, she IS worth the drive.

Report: Rushed morning. DID fix hair. DID put on make-up. DID wear awesome shirt. One might be forced to go to the mall. Drove like a bat out of hello. Construction notwithstanding. Jen was there. Waiting. Staff didn't recognize me as homeless person from day before. Welcomed with open arms, offering drinks. Wonder why. No SHIT-ing this day. Relaxed. Submitted to treatment.

Am now blonde.
Am worth it.
Moments and all.




Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mikki's Love

Mikki.

She has been my friend. For twelve years.

For twelve years I took her for granted. Thinking she would be around today, tomorrow and next year. But I have learned that nothing is forever. And that the worst thing you can do is to not appreciate those you love.

You see, this awakening, this realization comes from recently discovering that Mikki is dying.

Mikki is my tri-color australian shepherd/golden retriever dog. In these, her last remaining days, she has been "speaking" to me. Imparting cherished and important truths. Mikki my friend, my dog, has been teaching me. You might say, making sure I learn something from her. Now, it is important to note here, Mikki is a gentle, intelligent, compassionate, devoted, loving companion with a somewhat sly, yet innocent, sense of humor.

Example: she is having trouble walking but when she really wants to, she can jump up on the back of the sofa in order to see the mailman and bark wildly, for sure incessantly, at him (which has been a favorite pastime during the entire course of her life!). When she sees me looking at her in surprise, she jumps back off, slinks with a limp to the rug, lays down with a sigh, looks pitiful and sad, appearing to say "What? That wasn't me. That musta been a short-term miracle cuz I can barely walk! In fact, I'm so weak, I think I need some more of that salami and cheese."

While Mikki is still with me, which will not be for long now, I will enjoy her, spoiling her rotten with love, food and furniture rights. She is unabashedly and certainly soaking up this pampering with all she's got! Almost smiling as she reclines on the leather furniture :) I will mourn later.

This leads me to the important life lessons I think she wants me to know and remember.

If you knew your life was almost over, how would you spend the time you have left? Here is what Mikki says:
  • Eat anything you want like lots of salami, cheese, canned food and cat poop.
  • It is okay to spit out your medicine if you don't like the taste.
  • Spend as much time as you wish laying around on the sofa, the leather one. Oh, the bed, too.
  • Sleep until you get to eat again or until you have to go outside to the bathroom and then do it on the patio of you can't make it to the garden.
  • Let everyone else clean up after you.
  • Speak your mind to mailmen, UPS drivers, young whippersnapper puppies, squirrels or anyone else who catches your attention.
  • Don't let anyone make you take a bath, whine, they will give up. (okay, forget this one, they will give you a bath ANYWAY, don't fight it, it gets over with faster)
  • Lick other's ears. Like your sister's. Alot.
  • Pass gas when you want, they will just pat your head and say in that baby voice "Isn't that cute?!"
  • Look appealing so everyone who walks by has to stop and rub their hands all over you (feel you up).
  • Use any and all looks to get whatever you want.
  • Drink until it is running out the other end.
  • If you don't feel so hot, you don't have to exercise.
  • That although someone might be physically gone, the memories never go away.

And most importantly . . .

  • Accept love and give love completely, unconditionally, never taking each other for granted for in the blink of an eye the one you love could be gone.

If it is one thing Mikki has done exceptionally well, it has been loving me without conditions, even when I took her for granted.

I am going to spend my time . . . loving. No matter how long I have.

Can "simple" animals teach us humans something valuable? I think they can.

If you had little time left . . . how would you spend it?