Saturday, May 29, 2004

This spring I've described my garden several times, but I might as well have posted a picture (if I had that capability) because I never mentioned senses other than sight. While the colors, textures and foliage of the garden strikes you first, just sit on the bench and let the other senses explore the beauty.

Now breathe in the fragrance of the garden. Dianthus Essex Witch casts a strong spice fragrance competing with the wild rose from the woods. The earliest fragrant plant are the hyacinths, followed by Viburnum carlessi, which is intoxicating. I especially like to open the windows in early spring and let it drift through the house. Another wild plant kicks in after the Viburnum, the strong honey scent of Russian Olive. Then the lilacs. Coming up are the oriental lilies and fragrant old roses. I haven't even mentioned the smell of spring - warming earth.

You are still seated on that garden bench and what do you feel? The warm sun and the gentle breeze on your skin. Unfortunately, with the warm weather upon us, you may feel the bite of a deerfly if you sit too long. Of course, if you were kneeling on the ground with your hands buried in the soil, your sense of feel and smell are fully engaged with the warm tilth.

The sound of the wind through the trees, the call of the birds, the gurgle of Usually Not Creek, the rustle of plant leaves, the buzz of insects have a way of calming the spirit.

You'd better open your eyes for treating the taste buds. You could test the herbs - thyme, chives, mint - or you could try some edible flowers or, better yet, walk into the meadow where the asparagus, berries, rhubarb and fruit are growing.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I haven't addressed controverial issues on this blog, but this post by Dean Esmay struck a chord. Even when I was a young, budding feminist and unduly influenced by popular opionions, I had mixed emotions about abortion. I'm sure it was related to the sense of horror I felt when I learned about abortion as a young teen from reading a Life magazine article about back alley butchers. We were a family that loved babies, and we still do. As I grew older, several women confided in me their post-abortion pain. Every single one was given no choice by the father. One was taken to another state by her husband, crying the whole way. She told the doctor she did not want an abortion but she was given no choice.

I am against abortion on demand. How can any thinking rational person claim this is not a baby; but even if you remove the inflammatory "killing babies" statement from a discussion of abortion, why do we never hear about the lasting emotional damage to the mother?
Feathered Friends
Yesterday I watched a meadowlark outside the window. At first I thought it was a goldfinch because of the bright yellow, but it was much much too big for a finch. Steve also saw it recently in the same area, so perhaps it has made a nest nearby. Today we discovered that a sparrow made a nest and laid one egg on the top of the tool chest in the garage. Now what do we do? Usually we close the door unless we are working around the yard. I guess we will have to leave it open long enough for mama to feed the baby when it hatches. I thought I saw a hummingbird in the flower garden, but it turned out to be a hummingbird moth.

UPDATE: I just walked outside in time to see a male and a female redwing blackbird chase a blue heron out of the pond where their nest is.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Mom's home!
81 years old and she can still safely drive 12 hours to visit her family; she even handled a minor car repair on the way. I can't wait until she moves back. Does anyone want to buy a retirement home in the Ozarks?

So far she has watched her grandchild play her last tennis match of high school, attended her 64th class reunion, attended the confirmation of her great-grandchild, celebrated the graduation of her grandchild. Yesterday we visited while everyone else was working and today my sister, my mother and I are either going on a garden walk (if good weather) or to the Art Museum (if foul weather).

Monday, May 24, 2004

Farewell Middle School
This is the last week of middle school for my boys. They are off to the Freshman Campus of the high school next fall. When I was in school (and the earth's crust was cool not warm then) most of my classmates were given 8th grade graduation parties with nice watches or pens to commemorate the accomplishment. I can't believe I have a foot in a world that celebrated 8 years of education and the other foot in a world that expects college or even graduate school. My parents, by the way, had both of their feet in the college expectation world.

The principal and assistant principal were chatting with me the other day about my boys' middle school exploits. One said, "There are certain kids you never forget, and I will always remember these boys." But then he added, "That can be good or bad." He assured me it was good.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Show Choir
Ricky auditioned for the JV Show Choir and was selected. Given the aggressiveness of many of the stage mothers, I'm so proud of Ricky for doing this on his own.
It was a fun week of entertaining, culminating in a "tea" Sunday for my sister, her husband and another couple, except I forgot to restock my tea supplies so we had coffee spiked with Amaretto. No one complained.

Now it's time to tackle some of the jobs that have been piling up. The swimming pool needs opened, but there are numerous tree frogs clinging to the sides with thousands of tadpoles in the water. Before I dump the chemicals in the pool, I need to move as many frogs and tadpoles as I can to our pond.

Steve and the boys started the spring mowing at the Highlands (our tree farm) last weekend and yesterday Steve and I spent four hours clearing brambles between the trees. It was hot, hard, dirty work, but we were compensated by the beautiful day, the aerial antics of the birds, the companionship of quiet work with someone you love, and a large section of cleared land. I think our society is poorer for the loss of working hard together as a family to benefit the family unit.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Women Friends
I am so blessed to have close women friends. This morning I hosted the book club (9 women) and tonight my women's group is meeting here for dinner (9 women, no overlap). The house is clean, the table is set, food prep is done and I have about ten free minutes.

When I was going through a rough time after losing my job, my counselor gave me another way to think about myself. She said people are attracted to like people, so consider my friends - their intellect, humor, grace, kindness, integrity, joy in life - and then try to apply those attributes to myself and see if they stick.

Oh, the comfort,
the inexpressible comfort
of feeling safe with a person:
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but to pour them out,
just as they are,
chaff and grain together,
knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then, with the breath of kindness,
blow the rest away.

George Eliot

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Now I remember why I will never work again for a company with an HR department.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Half Boy
The Amish in the area have a saying about having boys work for you: One boy, one boy. Two boys, half boy. Three boys, no boy. That means with twin boys, I only have half a boy. And that was their level of judgment tonight.

One twin is careful and precise; the other is impulsive. One has the privilege of using the riding mower while we are still working on the driving skills of the other.

Steve is paddling in Michigan, so I left the boys by themselves while I ran some errands and picked up a pizza. What a bucolic scene when I left: the sun just came out after the rain and the boys were playing catch. When I got home less than an hour later, that sure had changed.

While I was gone, they decided to mow the meadow even though they are not allowed to use power machines or tools without supervision and the careful twin decided he was going to teach the impulsive twin how to drive. When I pulled in the driveway, the mower was going 90 miles an hour (at least that’s what it seemed like) with the impulsive boy driving while the careful boy was hanging on the back yelling for him to stop. Well, stop they did. Stopped by the large trailer full of stone. No one was hurt, thank God. The mower has a huge dent in the front and the hood doesn’t close, but it still runs. They wanted to fix it after dinner with a hammer, but I thought enough damage was done.

Now what I don’t understand was their reaction. “Boy, are we going to be in trouble with Dad.” What about the trouble they were in with me? Somehow Dad’s discipline counts more than Mom’s.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Garden Party
The first guest arrived at 8 am, an hour early. I put her to work getting ready for 38 women, 1 man and 4 children. Most left around noon with trunks packed with new plants, but family stuck around and talked until about 1:30. At 2:30, my last guest arrived. She had a conflict in the morning but dropped by with her husband and children (not included in guest count). We caught tadpoles and I showed them the Stupid Catfish Trick.

I’m exhausted from getting ready, hosting such a large group, and the heat of the day, and I still have most of my booty to plant. My sister, who knows me well, brought me a hostess gift I’ve long wanted - a tree peony. That baby went in the garden right away, after I removed an English rose that had reverted to rootstock. During the exchange I received a toad lily, Basket of Gold, aster, white daylily, 3 pussy willows, a different type of sedum, catnip for King Kitty, ornamental pepper, white loosestrife (yes I know it will need contained somehow), bee balm plus more. As one guest put it, “I know spring has arrived.”

Another friend gave me a new book, "Passalong Plants," which I'm anxious to read. But first I must finish "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down," an excellent book we are reading for book club next week.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Annual Perennial Garden Party
Tomorrow is my annual perennial garden party. At the break of day, about 25 women are bringing starts from their garden and sharing with each other. They are also providing a bountiful breakfast feast. All I have to do is clean my house, garden and garage (in case of rain).

My husband wonders why I entertain because I go into a frenzy (thereby throwing the household into a frenzy) getting ready. He doesn't understand that such events force me to wash the windows, clean the door sills and all those things that get overlooked in my regular housekeeping routine.

And I love this garden party. I invite friends from church, from book club, from Group (I really should share about Group), from former jobs, from family, and lifelong friends. And I encourage them to invite their friends and family. We all share a passion for plants, and it's fun watching these bright, interesting beautiful women connect with flowers as the icebreaker.

Another joy is the young women who come to get plants for their first gardens and then getting updates from them as the years pass. They are the most enthusiastic because the wonder of gardening is still fresh.

Well, off to untangle the cords under the PC (as if someone will look or even care tomorrow.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

On the way home from the Spring Fine Arts Festival at the middle school, one son and a neighbor boy climbed to the very back of the Suburban. Son asked if he could turn on the reading light because he wanted to read the Bible to his friend. Of course, I gave permission. Glancing in the rearview mirror, though, my mother instincts went on full alert when I saw them huddled together whispering.

"What are you reading?"


Good. Wisdom literature. Practical life stuff. "Read it to me, please," I ask.

So he read Proverbs 5:19:

As a loving hind and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
Be exhilarated always with her love.

At bedtime, I explained that this passage was about remaining faithful to your wife, so it was good, wise and practical stuff for a 14 year old to ponder.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Under the influence of my sister's friend Kathy and after reading this blog, here is the menu I planned for dinner: chicken casserole, garlic mustard greens, cattail shoots and a salad with redbud blossoms. My husband noticed the menu on the counter among my other lists and said, "Well, the chicken casserole sounds good." I did serve the cattail shoots and we all decided that it was rather tasteless.
Food Chain
As I bent to pull a weed from under my daylilies, I sensed a snake nearby that seemed to have a puffed up head like a cobra. With a scream, I leaped out of the garden bed and the males of my house came running. Looking closer, we discovered a smallish garter snake with a large toad in its mouth.

My inclination was to pick up the snake and shake the toad out. I just finished reading "A Country Year" by Sue Hubbell and she used this technique to rescue a baby phoebe, knowing that "As a human being I am a great meddler; I fiddle, alter, modify. This is neither good nor bad, merely human, in the same way that the snake who eats mice and phoebes is merely serpentish. But being human I have the kind of mind which can recognize that when I fiddle and twitch any part of the circle there are reverberations throughout the whole."

So I did not meddle this time, partly because Steve said the toad would not live anyway. We watched off and on the whole day; the neighbor boys came over to check it out. The boys were setting odds on whether the snake could swallow the toad. We never found out. The next day all evidence was gone.

Both garter snakes and toads are beneficial in the garden. I'm glad they are there, but I wish they would stay in their own 'hoods.
Big Man on Campus
Ricky went with his church group to a large gathering (hundreds) of middle schoolers at Indiana Wesleyan College Friday and Saturday. Here are the reports I got:

"Ricky knew everyone--kids, adults and even the college students."

"Ricky was introducing people to other people all night long."

"Other youth pastors were seeking me out because they wanted to meet Ricky's youth pastor."

He came home with screen names written all up and down his arms and phone numbers in his pocket.

Our greatest strength is often our greatest weakness. Ricky's social skills will serve him well (and I'm curious to see how his life turns out), as long as socialization doesn't interfere with the task at hand. "Talks too much" was written on almost every report card he received in grade school.