Friday, April 29, 2011

Gardening With a Menopausal Woman

    I grow a lot weeds, but I cultivate a few flowers. Don't get the idea that I have some exquisite garden. I once had a very lovely perennial garden, but working outside the home for eighteen years did that one in. However, now that I am retired and have a new hip to boot, I am feeling the urge. So I have developed a few guidelines for women who fall in the over fifty category and still like to dig in the earth.
    1. Wear a kitchen apron over your clothing. I have an old dark green and white Williams-Sonoma apron with deep pockets that I wear in the yard. You just never know when you will need pockets (even though my "baby" is twenty-four, I will occasionally turn up a jointed GI Joe or tank that he buried in the yard when he was a little boy), Also, if I have my glasses on my head they fall off in the dirt, so it helps to stick them way down in the pockets of the apron where they are less likely to get lost in the yard. Losing glasses at the rate I do can get expensive, even when they are the drugstore kind.
    2. Do not wear a bra. If you wear the kitchen apron, this will not be so obvious, and you will not be quite so embarrassed when the neighbors come to call. I should have made this rule number one, but I didn't want to start out with something that sounded totally crass, however, this is a very important rule. Not wearing a bra helps to mitigate those life-altering hot flashes...which seem to come more frequently when your head is bent down below your hindermost parts.
    3. Water your plants when you first go out and then turn the hose down to a light trickle. As I work around the yard, I drag the hose around with me. The trickle is nice because I can drink from the hose when I get thirsty or even pat a little water on my head and neck when one of those hot flashes make their appearance. And if you have a nuclear flash (some of you know what I am talking about) then you can sprint to turn the hose up to full blast and turn it over your head. I call this my shower in the yard.
    4. Keep several pairs of yard shoes by every door. I am bad about going out one door and coming in the other, so I like to have several pairs of shoes in case one gets muddy from a nuclear flash or otherwise soggy ground. For a while I had more yard shoes than good shoes because I was always getting the urge to dig in my good shoes, and I could not restrain myself. I am trying to be more disciplined now.
   5. Keep your tools nearby. I have a plastic cart that I bought at a yard sale that is my best friend. (This photo is the closest thing I could find, but keep in mind that I paid $5 for mine; that's right folks, $5.00) It works better than a wheelbarrow for me and is lighter. It is also angled so that I can keep my trowels and shovels in the cart when I work. Otherwise, I will lose something. I have found trowels in the oddest places along with gloves I never remember taking off. Hot flashes are known to fry the brain cells. Or so I say.
    4. Start early in the morning, and start in the shade. I have tried working later in the day, but the heat and the sun are guaranteed triggers (just like a blow dryer) for those pesky hot flashes.
    5. Don't be afraid to break the rules. My woolly lambs-ear says full sun, but it does not like the full sun of my herb garden. I know this because I have tried repeatedly to make it grow there. The lambs-ear is the happiest tucked up under my lace-cap hydrangeas. Despite what the folks at Home Depot think, God does not always follow the rules on the plastic tag, therefore, neither do I.
   6. Go with your gut. I had a friend who had an unbelievably beautiful blue and white garden. It was magnificent, and I loved going to visit when the phlox and larkspur were in bloom, but despite the fact that I appreciated the discipline and order that she brought to her landscape, it is not my cup of tea. My yard is riotous. Riotous in color and texture. I could never limit myself to two colors and besides, you never know what is going to be in the cosmos or zinnia packets.
   7. Annuals versus perennials is not a battle that I fight in my yard. I buy whatever strikes my fancy. The weather is so crazy around here that I always have a few "spring" surprises. This year my Italian flat parsley wintered over, but none of my columbine came back. Go figure.
   8. Buy lots of gardening gloves. I go to the dollar store for these. I will also wear left-handed gloves on my right-hand because I can never find where I took the other off. I also keep them by both doors, and I don't ever worry about if they match. The one exception I make to this are my plastic-handed gloves. I spend more on these and am happy to do so. When the ground is wet, they are the only ones for me. I should probably insert a song here.
    9. Keep plastic or paper down in your trunk for those moments when you just have to buy a plant, or better yet, have a friend who will let you dig one up in her yard. It saves you later when you can't figure out that musty, earthy smell coming from the back of your car.
   10. Don't do your gardening for anyone else to enjoy, do it for yourself. I have been a lot happier since I started following this line of thought in my yard and in my life. Talk to God in your yard. He likes it out there. Pray, sing, laugh, and sweat (if you are over 50, this does not require much effort to produce this result). Gardening is good for the soul. I could write more rules, but there is no humidity today so I am heading back outdoors for round two. The silver artemisia I found day before yesterday is calling me!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Pretties

   When you see these pictures, you might be tempted to think that we had a lovely delightful Easter. We did. But that's not the whole story. It was chaotic. There were people everywhere. All over my house. And the food. Oh my goodness, we could have fed an army. Or at least an entire battalion. And it was all good. Very good. And the best part is that everyone who came brought something to put on the table. And I used paper plates. You may have read my previous post about my the gift my husband gave me. The kitchen clean-up. I am still marveling over that one. I keep telling him that he has set the bar very high. Hoping that he will get my drift. But I don't want to get greedy...I want to savor the sacrifice of love that he offered to me this year.
  But back to Easter. And our happy, crazy, loud family. With eight children and innumerable adults, there was lots happening. And for Little Two, lots that was not happening. My son and daughter-in-law were determined that a very tired Little Two needed to take a nap, but an equally determined Little Two had other ideas. She made it plain to anyone who was listening that she is her father's daughter...translate that...she is a party animal...and napping was not part of her agenda for Easter. Guess who won the battle? You guessed it...Little Two, of course.
   Here are some pictures of the Easter decor. Lord willing and the creek don't rise (and unfortunately, it is rising), I will post additional pictures of the hordes otherwise known as family that were there to celebrate the Risen Lord.
Front door replete with "Resurrection Ribbons"
Main Dining Table (Note the Paper Placements...Thanks, Caspari)
Main Table Centerpiece
Outdoor Table Decor
Chick and Eggs
Close-up of Children's Table
Long-view of Children's Tables

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Splish Splash

     It was storming in the morning, but by midday the sun had come out and things were definitely looking up. The Daughter, Little One, and I made our way to a nearby park. There this granddaughter made a wonderful discovery...she found a puddle. Her delight was evident. So much for soaked shoes and socks, wet shorts, and a wet shirt. No harm done. She might not remember her squeals and her sheer unadulterated joy, but I will savor the memory of this moment for a very long time! Oh to be young again!
I spy a puddle, oh my!
Just making sure that this stuff is water! 
I do believe I will, thank you very much!
Woo Hoo! Stomp, Stomp! Splish, Splash! So Much Fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blessedly Served

   The Husband gave me the gift of gifts yesterday. It even felt better than the roses, vintage diamond earrings and bracelet, sweet cards, clothing, and perfume he has given me over the course of our thirty-seven year old marriage: he cleaned the kitchen. It wasn't perfunctory. It wasn't superficial. It was a foot-washing love gift of a cleaning. He ran the dishwasher and then unloaded it, hand-washed something like 90 pieces of flat silver (that's what happens when you have 30+ people for lunch), hand-washed 25 goblets, and all manner of silver serving pieces. He totally cleaned off the three tables where we dined, put mayonnaise on the water rings on the dining room table and emptied all of the trash. Then he put up all the food (my refrigerator looks even crazier than it did before Easter) in nice little plastic containers and then somehow found time to take plates of food over to our elderly neighbors -- all while I was napping. Granted, it was a three hour fall in the bed, and I don't think I will never get up kind of exhaustion nap. But the man rocked it. I take back everything I have ever said or thought about his kitchen cleaning skills. I will gladly cook the crow, serve it up, and eat it all by myself.
   Last night I was amazed by his gift, this morning it felt even sweeter, like the kiss of the Holy Spirit. I don't know when he has ever loved me so well. I know he has because I still love this man dearly after thirty-seven years of marriage, but this was a completely selfless gift. He did not do the clean-up his way, he did it my way. It's one of the hardest things in a marriage. Letting go of self and truly serving another from the other person's perspective of his or her need. How often do we serve others the way that WE want to be served, instead of taking up the towel and meeting them where they are? I should know. I do it all the time.
    I learned something this Easter from my husband's gift. I learned that I am not too old to change. If he can love me like this, then I, too, can love him and others like this. It was such a selfless gift. I also want to kiss his dish-pan hands in gratitude. Because of him I am not going to be enslaved to a day of cleaning up the mess. I am headed out to my porch with a cup of coffee in one hand and my Names of God Bible Study in the other. All because I have been oh so blessedly served....which makes me oh so blessedly thankful to the Lord for this day and for this good man.
Sure looks like love in a bottle to me!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Both Had Fun

   Today was a day for Little One, but yesterday was mine. We both loved our respective days. I know. She could not stop talking about hers, and I could not stop admiring mine! She loved the bunnies, and I love the lilies. I think we are both Easter girls. Here's the shake-down.
      This is the bunny house. It is where the bunnies in Nashville live before Easter. I don't know where they live after that, and I don't think I want to know. Their home for now has several levels and has a roof that vaguely resembles what must be a Southern rendition of a Pagoda. Each year the toy store hires an architect who designs the bunnies' living quarters around a specific theme. One year they were hillbilly bunnies and they had a jalopy, a still, and an outhouse in the enclosure. Go figure. I have no idea who thought that one up. It's a good thing the bunnies are largely oblivious; otherwise they might boycott or go on strike. However, right now they are living a pretty good life. There is plenty of bunny food, plenty of fresh water, and lots and lots of cedar wood chips. This lovely abode resides inside the famous Phillips Toy Mart which has been in business longer than my husband has been alive. I know because my mother-in-law told me so. Santa Claus purportedly had special arrangements with Phillips Toy Mart when my husband was a little boy and he had the same arrangement with us when my own children were young. It must be a generational thing which is probably why the Phillips family are still in business despite the competition with larger chain stores.
       But back to the bunnies. I could not get any direct shots of Little One because she would not turn her head away from the bunnies. She was fixated on them, practically hypnotized by them.  Thankfully, they are behind a little wire fence that is lined with plexiglass. Good thing. Otherwise, she might have poked a few to death. Goodness knows she tried. Little One is also a climber, and she tried with all of her might to breach that fence, but I do have to hand it to the architects. It is not designed for toddlers to scale, even determined toddlers. So she simply stood and talked to the bunnies in her toddler talk for what seemed like forever. It was adorable. And then for the next five hours, I heard all about the bunnies and the wabbits over and over again. I think it was a hit. We are already planning our trip for next year and can't wait to see what the design for the bunny theme park will be.

      My own special day involved flowers. No, nobody sent me flowers, I bought them at the grocery store. That's right, the grocery store. And then I came home and arranged them. All right, the vase with the lilies basically arranged itself, but I did arrange the other flowers in the low silver bowl. It made me happy. Ridiculously happy. I am a far-cry from a floral designer, but I love piddling with flowers. And who can go wrong with lilies...they are one of God's most glorious gifts to the earth!

   So I guess Little One and Nonna each had a little taste of heaven this week. We are definitely happy girls.
Just thought you might want to know.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Celebrating Life

   Tears. More tears. Insane laughter accompanied by some occasional inappropriate giggling. Multiple conversations going on simultaneously. Loud voices. Soft voices. Hugs. Advice. Prayer. Comfort. Encouragement. Wisdom. Guidance. The women in my Ish Girls Bible Study have been together two years now. The eight of us are almost getting like a good pair of houseshoes, broken in and entirely comfortable. There is very little pretense. Out of the starting gate it seems as though we have been dealing with some very heavy stuff. Hurting lives. Needs so big that we have all cried. In some ways over the course of two years, it has not let up. Each of us has taken a turn on the "prayer chair" to be prayed over and for by the others. It is humbling. It is necessary. It is good.
   Today was our Easter celebration. We ate brunch together. I was proud of myself that instead of feeling compelled to drag out the china, silver and crystal like a good Southern hostess, I pulled out paper placements, paper plates, and plastic tumblers. My mother and grandmother would croak. I also did not slave in the kitchen for hours preparing everything from scratch. I bought the quiches at the Puffy Muffin, I bought the fruit at Publix, and I bought the lemon blueberry bread at The Flour Shop. I cut up the fruit into smaller pieces, added some bananas and blueberries and lined the bowl with red leaf lettuce. I sliced the quiches that were hot (at my request) when I picked them up this morning. I sliced the bread and then pulled my one contribution out of the oven, my garlic cheese grits. I used a different brand of grits, and of course, they were slightly runny. Oh, and I also made the coffee. It was the easiest and best brunch I have had in a long time. I was not exhausted. Only emotional -- which is a fairly typical state for me these days.
   However, the best part of the brunch was what came afterward. The eight of us, still gathered at the table, shared Communion. This may not be theologically correct according to some denominations, but I only see in Scripture where we are encouraged to do this in remembrance of Him and so we did. It was almost unbearably tender watching each woman take the bread and the cup and offer them to the sister beside her in the name of Christ. I found myself treasuring what it means to be a woman. To be able to cry when you need to cry (and sometimes when you don't), to rejoice when you need to rejoice, and to bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. And what is that law? To love. And then to love some more. As one of the Ish Girls' five-year-old son understood when asked what sent Christ to the cross and what kept Him there, the little boy softly whispered one word, "Love." Yes, Caleb, it was and is love. And is not love the greatest gift and the greatest commandment He has given us, yet is the one commandment that He allows us to keep because He has already fulfilled it, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, He, who calls himself love, has given us the gift of himself to be poured out upon others even as it is poured out upon us.
    What could be a more perfect way to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ this season than to lavish God's love upon someone who so desperately needs it? I am always hungry for more of His love, aren't you?  I challenge you to listen for the Holy Spirit's prompting and then to weep, to laugh, to rejoice, and to share God's precious gift of love with someone who needs as much as I once did the gift of Easter in their heart for the rest of their life.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Song in My Heart

     They say that music soothes the savage beast...and I would agree that music readily touches my soul, perhaps even more quickly than the written or spoken word. Music is a language all its own, and I wish I knew more about neuropsychology and the way music operates on the brain...wait, no I don't...that would only feed my life-long obsession with the acquisition of knowledge. All I need to know is that music calls to me, music ministers to me, music touches me. Music also ushers me into the presence of God. And there is no more glorious music than the music surrounding the Passion of Christ.
     Like many of you older folk, I grew up with The Old Rugged Cross. My grandparents loved it, my husband's grandparents loved it, and my mother-in-law wanted it played at her memorial service. It was.
          On a hill far away stood an Old Rugged Cross, the emblem of suffering and shame; 
          and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.
     I remember as a child wondering why I should love that old cross, for the death that the One died upon it seemed so terrifying and horrible to me, but as I grow older, I have come to value the sacrifice and to see the cross for its terrible and enduring beauty. For in it or upon it, lies the means of grace. The Way to the Father. My way to the Father. The cross represents my adoption record. Fully paid. Fully satisfied. And because of that cross I am afforded the privilege of being the daughter of the Most High, His child. And He is my Abba, my Papa. It still seems unbelievable to me.
     Yet my all-time favorite Easter hymn is the more modern Easter Song written by Keith Greene,
           Hear the bells ringing, they're singing that you can be born again
           Hear the bells ringing, they're singing Christ is risen from the dead.
           The angel up on the tombstone said, "He is risen just as he said. 
           Quickly now, go tell his disciples that Jesus Christ is no longer dead."
           Joy to the World, He has risen, Hallelujah
           He is risen, Hallelujah...
      Without fail, I always cry when I sing this song. I love that it brings Christmas, The Cross, and the Empty Tomb together in such a wonderful way. Joy to the World. Yes! I can seemingly never get enough of all that Christ offers me. Daily I find myself in sore need of His redemption, His grace, and His mercy. I am ever thankful that He freely offers me this and more. I scarce can take it in.
      Be Thou My Vision is not an Easter hymn per se, but this ancient church melody is the cry of my heart today:
          Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
          Naught be all else to me, save that thou art -
          Thou my best thought by day or by night,
          Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
          Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
          Thou mine inheritance, now and always
          Thou and thou only, first in my heart,
          High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.
          High King of Heaven, my victory won,
          May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heav'n's sun!
          Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
          Still be my vision, O Ruler of All. 

     Without a doubt, I am so very thankful to be His.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Grandbabies Galore

   It was the week for grandbabies. Little One and Little Two filled my cup to perfection. One of them was a tad bit under the weather, but it didn't make any difference to me. It just gave me an excuse to hug and cuddle all the more. Here are some pics of my budding spring beauties who make my heart sing!
Little One and I took a stroll around East Nashville one morning. She and her BlaBa Tiger Lily doll
got so tired they both had to close their eyes for just a minute. But it didn't last long,
 Little One and Tiger Lily did not want to miss ANYTHING!
Little Two and Nonna read lots of books when she came to spend the day, but this colorful book
 is by far her favorite. Little Two tried very hard to turn the pages all by herself. Her great-grandmother who
is a retired librarian (do librarians ever really retire?) would be so proud!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Getting the Nest Ready

     The envelope arrived with a little bird stamp on the back; inside was a graphic illustration of a nest with a tiny egg. The beautifully designed and handcrafted baby shower invitations set the stage for the event honoring this momma-to-be who, unlike so many today, will not find out the sex of her baby until he or she is born later this spring. The hostesses chose accents of green and white and scattered cloches filled with nests throughout the house along with a bright clutch of green and white balloons at the front door to welcome the guests. The table was artfully laden with moss interspersed with flowers and featured a lighted tree branch with...yes, a bird's nest or two. Doors and windows were thrown open to bring the warm spring sunshine inside and antique china, silver goblets, a silver swinging tea kettle, and yummy brunch food helped to make the occasion a memorable one for this lovely momma and her much anticipated little one. It was a happy, happy day!
Another view of the moss-laden table

Enjoying the brunch
Hostesses with the Mom-to-Be (she's in the bright blue!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Extraordinary Ability

   You might be familiar with Bob the Builder, but in our family Bob has been eclipsed by my humble brother-in-law. This brother-in-law is a man who can take sand and mortar, steel, glass, and wood and turn these ordinary materials into something magnificent. I recently toured a home that he had completed in the Panhandle of Florida. It stretched my imagination and fueled my own desire to explore any possible untapped fields of creativity that might be lurking within (not that I could EVER build a house). I don't know how he does it. I don't know where he learned to do it. I only know he does.
   There are houses peppered all over the Panhandle (in Watercolor, Watersound, Sandestin, and Seaside to name a few), that bear this man's stamp along with countless commercial buildings, as well. And thank the Good Lord, all are sold and occupied. In case you have been asleep the past five years, the Gulf Coast of Florida has gone belly up with real estate development. It just ain't happening any more. But there is always a place for a man who does an honest day's work at a fair price. And that's my brother-in-law. He has trimmed back, scaled back, and chooses his projects with care. He no longer has five building superintendents working around the clock or 25 projects underway at a time; he no longer builds "spec" houses, but he still builds from scratch and remodels and refurbishes and can take it down to the studs and then back up if you want him to. A long time ago he learned the secret of being happy in times of plenty as well as times of want, and it has served him in good stead.
   This recently completed home has totally captured my imagination. It is not a house the likes of which I will ever call home. It's on the Gulf, for one, and secondly, I would probably build more of a cottage than this elegant soaring space, if ever given the unlikely chance. Yet this house still stirs my soul and intrigues me. Primarily because it has so much possibility. So much ingenuity. I guess that's why I like it so much. I hope you will enjoy the glimpse of this special place that someone who dared to dream will soon be calling home.
   Oh, and if you want an-honest-as-the-day-is-long man who can make your very own dream come to life, then email me. I'll be happy to pass along the name of my brother-in-law's company along with the highest of references. I am absolutely 100% certain his wife, my sister, would vouch for him, as will the rest of us.
Windows that soar to let in the light
Curved wall of windows
The priceless view
Looking out from the adjacent terrace
Third story great room with dining room
 light fixture in foreground
Exquisitely beautiful ceilings with uplighting 
I don't normally think ceilings are gorgeous,
 but these left me with my mouth hanging open
Top two floors are hardwood; lowest level is
stained natural concrete
Kitchen with stainless steel backsplash tiles, stone counters,
and matte finish stainless island
Fireplace with matte finish stainless steel ledge
There are 26 paint colors in this house, and
this is the fun combo for the office and the elevator
Detail of stacked and layered molding (entry to office closet)

Laundry room gray and taupe stone floor
Guest bath on third level
Second floor landing with door to streetside porch
Second floor den with built ins and floating shelves
Staircase ledge on second story

Stair detail from ground floor;
wooden cubbies on background wall;
stained natural concrete floors on ground level
All wood in house has limed green wash
Ground floor wet bar with Thermador refrigerator
Tile detail for lowest level bath
Pool and spa on lowest level of house;
outdoor kitchen to the left under covered porch.