Archive for May, 2009

Yard Woman
May 29, 2009








And Adam was a gardener.                                                                                                                                                                                         William Shakespeare (1592 Henry VI)

Who ever heard of a “yard woman”? It’s always a “yard man”. But I’m here to tell you that I played the role of “yard woman” this week, and while I’ve got some seriously sore muscles, bruises and dinged legs… it sure was fun! 

Maybe I should say I am a “gardener”? Sounds more genteel, doesn’t it. “Adam was a yard man” doesn’t quite have the same cachet. 

The weather forecast was promising… we’d been experiencing unstable conditions that led to thunderstorms over the past few days. Rain was all around us, but it never quite made it over here. It’s probably because I didn’t wash my car. Yes, that must be it. 

The experts called for more of the same, so I thought I’d gamble (in hopes that it would finally be our turn for rain), and did some serious transplanting. Ike left a huge hole in our tree canopy (we had to take down 4 mature oaks), and all the plantings by the back pond which had previously been in the shade, were now experiencing blazing sunlight at certain points during the day. They did NOT like this sunlight, and it showed. 

Digging in the dirt is therapeutic. My back might not agree, but I was a woman on a mission, so I ignored all twinges. First, I dug up the now inappropriate plants and relocated them to a shadier spot. Then I went and dug up plants that like the sun (from our front flower “circle”) and put them in the spots vacated by the shady types. 

Final step was to water deeply and just wait for the rain… which of course, never came, because I didn’t go get my car washed, dang it! I forgot that important step. 

So after I cleaned myself up (another important step), I watched as my transplants wilted in the heat of the day. They were in shock from being rudely yanked from their previous settings. I know it will take time for them to establish themselves, and with some TLC on my part (i.e. generous watering and a light pruning), I hope they will rally. But if they don’t, it’s not like they cost me any money; that’s what I like about transplanting from my own yard. 

My actual yard man will come at some point this week and wonder why in the heck I didn’t have his crew do for me what I wanted. Three reasons…One, I knew exactly what I wanted to transplant and where to put them. Two, frankly my dear, I’d rather do it myself! Number three, of course, is that it didn’t cost me any money, which is important these days as I’m anticipating a daughter’s wedding down the road. 

Postscript: Yesterday I seriously trimmed trees/shrubs and left all the remains to “yard man”, who indeed came and cleaned up the mess I’d made. He also brought me new perennials to add to the mix and planted them. Still NO RAIN. Watering like crazy. 

I think it’s rain dance time. 

Post postscript: Alas, rain dance didn’t work. Still watering. So far, so good. Stay tuned!


The Counselor Is In
May 21, 2009


whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve…

-Matthew 20:26b 

In Matthew 20:20-28, there was an envious development within the disciples’ ranks, and Jesus’ response (above) rebukes the notion of self-importance. I need to re-read this passage every so often, especially when I feel like I’m not being duly recognized for whatever contribution I’ve made to whatever cause I am promoting. It’s a huge concept to grasp and make peace with, and one of the core principles of the Christian faith. 

Tooting one’s horn is a BIG turn off in my book, and as a volunteer for a non-profit entity (i.e. the church), it’s even more important for me to adhere to this credo. I keep reminding myself that we’re all pulling the wagon in the same direction, so we should all be pulling with and for each other. Together and equal. 

But it’s hard to work with folks who are full of themselves and let everyone know how important they are (i.e. the “queen bee syndrome” or its male counterpart). It’s hard to “serve” alongside people such as this, and I struggle with this dilemma whenever I’m faced with it. 

My own daughter is currently dealing with a similar situation with a co-worker, and she is struggling with how to best address it without being a whiner or creating a conflict. It’s difficult for me to counsel her, given that I have wrestled with this very same problem at various points in my life.

I know what NOT to do, which is to whisper behind the scenes, putting the offender in a negative light. What goes around comes around, and this strategy only leads to other people’s wondering, “what is she saying about me behind MY back?”… and then they think less of me as a result. 

But, oh! It’s so tempting sometimes!      

Whenever I am faced with such a person and on the verge of spreading malice, I try to visualize Christ washing the disciples’ feet. Back in those days, this was a lowly task assigned to the lowliest servant. So who am I to puff myself up by cutting somebody else down? 

But washing a bee’s feet  is really hard, even mentally. I have to admit, I don’t always succeed in doing so. And so, my darling daughter, please do as I say and not as I do. This is my advice, and it will serve you well over the course of your life when you will be faced with similar folks who feel they must be superior to the rest of us. 

Feet. Visualize clean feet.

Making Scents of It
May 15, 2009










I know I have been here before,                                                                                                                                                                          But when or how I cannot tell:                                                                                                                                                                                  I know the grass beyond the door,                                                                                                                                                                      The sweet keen smell…                                                                                                                                                                                                   – Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1870)

Certain smells are intoxicating to me. They flood my senses with memories and transport me back in time. This morning as I ran, I inhaled the distinctive scents of ligustrum, magnolia, gardenia, jasmine and mimosa blossoms. All combined together made for a heady aroma which recalled my childhood days of playing outside all summer long. 

Because you see, we didn’t have air conditioning back in those days (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), nor did we have computers, cell phones or other such gadgets to keep us occupied inside. TV, yes, we had ONE, but my siblings and I were restricted to watching it only one hour a week, so we were pretty careful about what we watched! My favorite was the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. 

If we were sneaky, we could kind of sidle in to watch our siblings’ favorites, too, so I’d sometimes get to see Bonanza (post Disney), or Mighty Mouse on Saturday morning. They didn’t really have many educational programs back then, save Captain Kangaroo, which, now that I recall, I got to watch. I am thinking, maybe Mom relaxed the rules a bit for such fare? 

But I digress.

Our summers lasted a long time back then, unlike now. I’m not sure how that works, but it’s true. We kids would ride our bikes up and down the lanes of our neighborhood, looking for a Wham-o “Slip and Slide” or a “Water Wiggle” to cool off in the summer heat. One of those blow up “baby pools” was good for a cooling dunk, but even a lawn sprinkler to run through would suffice when desperate! Of course we drank out of the hose, too, with no ill effects. I think we must have lived in our bathing suits the entire summer long. 

We racked up miles on our bicycles as we rode over to the “pine forest” where we had secret clubhouses, or played on the see saws, which I understand are now UNSAFE!! We climbed trees to catch the breezes, and we played in the bayou, fishing or crabbing, or just catching minnows for fun. There was a small boat that we’d sometimes take out and paddle around, never wearing life jackets, of course. We were just free… I don’t recall ever being lonesome or bored. No matter what time of day it was, there was always someone to play with, whether a sibling or a friend.

There were no fences to speak of; the border between our neighbor’s yard and ours was an immense ligustrum hedge (thus the aromatic memory that jogged my senses this week). We cut through people’s yards all the time with nobody minding. They mostly knew who we were and that we were harmless.

Our parents never drove us anywhere nor did they know where we were, for the most part. That was just fine; we all knew we had to be home in time for dinner, and we were, thanks to our Girl Scout analog watches, that we carefully wound up each day.

It’s always a bit surprising to me these days when I see a group of kids playing outside or riding bikes along the sidewalk. Kids’ lives are so structured, scheduled and monitored now. It seems that certain expectations about what activity or organized sport might vault a child’s star status over the others take precedence over making the time for leisurely play. Sad.

My own daughter’s childhood playtime was far more supervised than mine ever was. We were in the car quite a lot as I drove her hither and yon. There were moments though, when we’d go to Utopia where she could run free, or when we lived on a Sandalwood lake, where she could also explore, play and swim without my having to be there constantly on red alert (she could walk to the playground or the lake, where there was a lifeguard).

I wonder if her summer memories will be as blissful as mine are, and if so, what smells will stir her to recapture them years from now?

It Was Just One of Those Days
May 7, 2009


I sing the body electric.

Walt Whitman (1855)

 I hate it when I stumble out of bed and turn on the light switch only to be startled by that POW sound that a blown light bulb makes. Once it happened to me TWICE in the same morning, which did not bode well for that day! 

So last Monday, guess how my day/week began? You guessed it… POW! I moved on to a stubborn computer that decided to “sleep in”; it would turn on, but it wouldn’t do anything. When I would click on a command, the little “wait” circle would just hover… and hover and hover. ARGH! 

I couldn’t even get it to turn off, so I had to resort to pushing the button manually, which of course, it doesn’t like when I do that. After experiencing this phenomenon a few more times, I began to worry, when all of a sudden, it decided to wake up and cooperate. A HUGE sense of relief flooded over me! 

On to my chores… Monday is “wash day” at my house, and this day was no different. A couple of loads into the process, I realized that the dryer was off, but the clothes inside weren’t dry. hmmm. I pushed the button… no response. Double ARGH! 

What to do? Think, think, think. The dryer is pretty old (15+ years), but I figured I’d try the repair route first before opting for a new one. They usually credit your repair fee towards a new purchase if you buy from the same place. But my short term problem was wet clothes. 

Let’s see. I could finish washing everything, then take all the wet clothes over to the Buckingham and throw one load into Mom’s dryer and the other into my mother in law’s. That would cut the drying time in half. Ok, I had my plan. 

As I examined the recalcitrant machine to find its model and serial number, I jiggled things a bit and tried to open the top, thinking maybe I’d see something amiss inside. No luck there, but when I idly hit the button, behold! It turned on! It ran awhile, then turned itself off again. Maybe it was just overheated? I let it sit while, then tried again. Yes! 

Obviously there was something going on here, but I was watchful as it limped along and finished drying all the clothes without my having to go down the street. That at least gave me some breathing room to call the repairman at my leisure. 

Next came a trip to the grocery store. No issues here except on the way home, the warning tone sounded and a “Low Oil Pressure” warning message flashed. Triple ARGH! I had just had the car in the shop for various costly repairs, and  afterwards, I experienced this same warning. I took it back, and they could find nothing wrong, so I KNOW it is just some glitch in the car’s computer system. I just drove on home and made a note of it to document it. For now, that will have to do. 

I figure that early morning blown light bulb must have been an omen for these frustrating incidents that I was fated to experience all in the same day. Were my biorhythms off? Did I project some sort of weird electrical aura that caused everything to malfunction at once? 

An old wives’ tale says that bad things come in threes, and I certainly found this to be true last Monday! Happily, the day ended with no other incidences. And even more happily, Tuesday dawned with no morning surprises. The computer worked beautifully, the dryer didn’t fail me and the car behaved itself. It was just an ordinary day… 

Shocking, isn’t it?

Silver and Gold
May 2, 2009


Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other gold.

-The Girl Scout Song (or something like that)

If you ever were a Girl Scout, I’m betting you know the tune to the above mentioned song. We used to sing it in rounds often in Brownies, so often that it is forever implanted into my brain. Its message is a caveat to remember one’s loyal friends, because these dear friends should be treasured as much as gold is (and in these days, that’s quite a lot!) even after moving on to new experiences.

Last weekend, Joel and I enjoyed a delightful trip up to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for an ABA section conference in which Joel is active. I’ve been to CO Springs before but never stayed at this most elegant resort, built in 1918.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to accompany him to a number of these conferences, and I’ve met some really fun people as a result. So after he registered his presence with the ABA staff, I looked over the list of participants to see if there were any familiar names on it.

I was really disappointed when I realized that some of my favorite friends would not be joining us this time. I have to admit that I’m not very comfortable in crowds where everyone else seems to know one another except for me. I credit the fact that my family moved back to Houston when I was at the awkward age of 13 and was the “new kid” in the 8th grade, which is a terrible age to be the new kid. As a result, ever since then, I’ve never enjoyed attending functions where I know no one. Even as old as I am, this is still an issue.

So when we arrived at the opening reception and made our way into the buzz of folks chatting away, I stuck pretty close to Joel. I saw some faces that I recognized from prior occasions, but nobody that I knew well enough to greet with any enthusiasm.

All of a sudden a man came up from behind me and (by his own confession) was about to tickle the back of my neck! John realized at the last minute that I wasn’t who he thought I was, and he swore I had a “twin” somewhere in the crowd. It wasn’t very long before he dragged her over to introduce her to me; her name was Donna, and she was from Richmond, VA.

From behind, Donna and I WERE very much alike- both the same height and build, with similar haircuts. We laughed about John’s mix-up, and chatted away about everything under the sun. The next night, we waved at each other across the restaurant and then sat at the same table the night after that. She’s one of five children; I’m one of six. We talked about books, travel, favorite Virginia destinations, family issues and everything under the sun. She enjoyed meeting Shannon and Kat, and engaged them in discussion as well.

While I’ve not added Donna to my Christmas card list just yet, she is my new “silver” friend whom I will look forward to visiting again at future conferences. I’m hoping that ours will turn into a “golden” friendship and that we’ll continue to enjoy each other’s company over the years.

The question is: would I have spent the time with Donna had my “favorites” been in attendance last weekend? I’m thinking, likely not. I’d probably have been so busy saving places for our usual “gang” that I would have totally missed out on getting to know her.

“There’s a sermon in here somewhere” as my previous pastor used to say. Look around. Golden friends are the best ever, but silver ones are there for you to mine, and with just a little alchemy… Voila! Gold.