Saturday, August 30, 2008

Smells and Memories

Riding through the farm lands last weekend on the motorcycle gave me a chance to relax and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells. Because of my allergies and sinuses I don’t always smell flowers, foods, or everyday things that most people take for granted.

It was the mowing season and I could smell the fresh cut hay lying in the fields waiting to be bailed or rolled. It reminded me of all those summer days playing in the barn at my aunt’s farm with my cousins in Missouri. We played hide and seek behind the stacked hay bales in the barn loft or climbed down the ladder to hide in the empty stalls.

In the afternoon my cousins and I would walk out into the fields and woods to find the cows grazing and begin herding them down the paths leading to the barns. When the cows came into the barn with their bodies warm from the summer sun and their udders full and ready to be milked, their scent mixed with the odors of freshly cut hay and filled the barn with a perfume that can’t be bottled.

We spent hours exploring the root cellar filled with canned fruits and vegetables for the winter and the evenings catching fireflies. These are memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

My aunt’s house sat at the end of a country road with the corn cribs on one side of the road and my aunt’s home which was a 1960’s modern electric marvel sitting on the opposite side of the road. Across the highway were the fields I remember my uncle tending and mowing in the summer.

My cousin Carl went on to raise polled Herford breeding stock, and Rita and Johnny still live just down the road from where they grew up in Ozark, Mo.

My aunt Elma has Alzheimer’s and although she wouldn’t remember who I was today, I will always remember the childhood memories of farm life that I continued to enjoy even after my family moved to Oklahoma and onto California.

It is amazing what the smells one picks up while riding on a Harley can trigger in your mind; the memories and the smiles it can bring when you look back.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beach Blanket Bingo

The last time I played bingo was about five or six years ago when we played biker bingo at our HOG chapter Christmas party and we used M&M’s for markers. Other than that I can’t remember when I played bingo which must have been when my children were younger.

The Evergreen Aids Foundation hosts bingo night on the fourth Thursday of each month as a fundraiser. Each month they have a theme and encourage those who attend to dress up. I thought about wearing my bikini top over my sweater because no one is going to see me in my bikini except Larry. Tonight Michael and Ryan were the MC’s for the event. Ryan was wearing plaid surfer beach shorts and a shirt and Michael had on a Polynesian sarong and a shirt and both had their flip flops on.

They rented a Bounce “Round that normally you would find at carnivals and fairs for children to play in. One of their volunteers named Matt crawled inside the bounce and would toss out beach balls that were numbered to correspond to the bingo numbers. This was a cute twist on a typical game.

Dinner was pizza, hot dogs, soda, beer, Annette Fun-I-Jell-o shots, big Kahuna drinks that consisted of peach vodka, triple sec, and strawberry lemonade. I was driving so I had a diet Pepsi to go with my pizza but I did buy the boys Jell-o shots. And a Beach Boys CD was playing surf music that added to the festive décor and brought back memories of my junior high and high school dances.

There were probably forty to fifty people playing bingo and I didn’t win a single game, but I had a lot of fun. The boys made a great comedy team and kept the crowd entertained.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Riding With Friends

Riding With Friends

I’ve been everywhere man…Bellingham, Nooksack, Deming, Sumas, Abbotsford, Mission, Derouche, Lake Errock Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, Yale, Boston Bar, Lytton, Lillooet, Pemberton, Whistler, Brackendale, Squamish, Lions Gates, all over Vancouver, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, Langley, Aldergrove, Lynden, and home to Ferndale…well not everywhere, but I did see a lot in two days time.

Larry and I went with some of our Mt. Baker Chapter H.O.G. family on a two day jaunt into Canada. Accuweather forecast rain for Sunday, so like any good motorcycle rider who lives in the far northwest corner of the USA, you pack rain gear. Even if the weather forecast says sun it might be a good idea to pack rain gear.

Saturday we rode along various rivers right next to the road us or watching the rivers far below us from the rocky mountain roads we were traversing. We arrived at Hells Gate and took a tram four hundred feet down and across the river to have lunch. I’m afraid of heights but the ride on the tram was worth the tingling toes.

We arrived in Lillooet and the weather was warm as we sat on the patio enjoying our dinner as the sun began to disappear behind the mountains. Back in the parking lot at our motel we pulled out our room chairs and kicked back sharing stories. My friend Dave said it’s not how many miles you ride, but the part of the ride where everyone puts the kickstands down, relaxes, and just has a good time visiting. I agree.

Fuel for our bodies, fuel for the bikes and we were off on day two of the adventure. After riding for hours in a downpour we drove right through Whistler (home of the 2010 winter Olympics) without stopping and tiptoed through Brackendale in stop and go traffic for miles before we arrived at Furry Creek Golf & Country Club. We walked in dripping wet and we were welcomed with hot coffee and tea. Pealing off the layers of rain gear and leather we placed our food orders and enjoyed watching the rain from the inside. The one thing the rain had not done was dampen our spirits.

Back on the bikes we headed to the border. We had only a half hour wait to cross and then about another half hour to ride home. Every detail was planned, everyone had a great time, and that made this ride a perfect 10.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Miss Rita's Birthday

Miss Rita had a birthday last Monday and I’m not telling how young she is. Every year she throws herself a party and invites all her family and friends to a salmon barbeque. I’m not sure if everyone shows up because of the salmon dinner or because Rita makes the best potato salad and no one wants to miss out. So Saturday was Rita’s BD party.

I packed up the car and took a cooler of cold beverages, a fruit salad, and a strawberry cheesecake trifle. Miss Angie brought her macaroni salad and there were also hamburgers, fresh crab and salmon, and all the trimmings for a great backyard barbeque picnic.

I arrived a little bit early and had a chance to visit with Rita and her adorable grandbabies before everyone else showed up. It was another one of those rare warm sunny days in Washington and we sat in the shade in the garage with the door up relaxing, talking, and waiting for everyone to arrive.

The Harley group met and took a ride to Mt. Baker before coming to the party and you could here them before we saw them as they pulled into the driveway about one o’clock. I heard rumors that some the members up on the mountain were having a snowball fight--in August no less.

When Rita thought most of the group had arrived, her husband, Dave, fired up the barbeque and the party moved to the backyard. Everyone arranged the chairs in the shade of the trees and those who went to Sturgis shared some of their stories about their two week adventure. The group is still a little tired from the miles and heat but the smiles on their faces let you know it was worth it.

Mark and his band-mate brought their guitars to play and sing for the party. They are an amazing duo with their musical talents. The group sang happy birthday to Rita as she blew out her candles and then the band sang a better rendition of the same tune. This should make her doubly blessed and her wishes really should come true.

Happy Birthday Rita and thank you for sharing your party.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ozark Mules

My parents have subscribed to a wonderful magazine called The Ozarks Mountaineer for about thirty years. Mom reads each issue and then passes them onto to those of who want them. I always enjoy reading them when I visit and take them home to Larry to enjoy.

The magazine is filled with stories of people, places--some of which don’t even exist anymore--food, tall tales, events, and the history of the land I call home. I was born in Lockwood Missouri and my sister Mary has a piece of the hospital wall where I was born stored in her house at Branson waiting for me to come and retrieve it. The hospital was being torn down and she just happened to be driving by that day and asked the construction workers if it was possible to have a small piece and they said sure and loaded a piece about three foot by three foot into her trunk. Someday I will bring it home, but for now it is safe.

My mom was born in Ozark and my dad was born in Dadeville. Some of my best childhood memories are taking summer vacations to visit my grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins. Occasionally my mom and I would take the train to Kansas City at Christmas and then ride the “milk train” to Springfield where a family member would pick us up. Those old routes between Kansas City and Springfield are gone but not forgotten.

Daddy always told me that if you came from Missouri (we pronounce it with a short a sound on the end --Missoura) then you were from the “show me state” and “stubborn as a mule.” This would explain why I need to know how to do things for myself, or why if you want me to do something I need to know why. I guess this line of thought follows the other slogan for my home state “mule headed.” Yes, I have my hand raised!

Reading the March/April 2008 issue of Ozarks Mountaineer there was a great article on Calvin Jones: Voice for Missouri Mules. This gave me a new prospective and respect for the Missouri state animal. Mr. Jones said, “…the truth is having any of those phrases used to describe you should be considered a compliment.”

Mules are smarter than most people think. They are half horse and half donkey. Mules won’t do something they aren’t sure about, will take breaks when they are tired, can withstand more stress, and work under hardship. This is so me. They also have very long memories. Yes, that’s me. If you mistreat a mule he will get even with the person who hurt him. Maybe someone should check my DNA because this sounds just like me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cruising for a Cause - Evergreen Aids Foundation

Just sit right back
And you’ll hear a tale
Of a three hour tour
A fearless crew
Plus forty-eight
Set sail on Bellingham Bay
It was a balmy night
With wine and cheese
And veggies for good measure
The laughter could be heard
From stern to bow
And port to starboard
The food was gone
The bottles empty
Time to go back home

Last night Larry and I took a cruise on Bellingham Bay on a about a sixty-three foot sailboat named the Shawmanee. The cruise was a fundraiser for The Evergreen Aids Foundation and my son Michael is the board president this year.

I am not a good swimmer and after several bad experiences on the previous boats, I have always told Larry, if you want a boat, buy one and enjoy it, but it is not my thing. So presented with helping out a charity for a good cause, Larry bought tickets and I figured I could just hang out near the lifejackets for the evening and I would be okay.

We arrived in plenty of time to board, find good seats, start meeting our fellow shipmates, and pour a glass of wine. Slowly we recognized friends among the gathering and caught up on who was doing what. We made new friends and discovered what our fellow travelers did in life and how we all came to be on this cruise.

Lawyers, doctors, educators, artists, newspaper reporters, students, businessmen and women, a community of caring individuals all coming together to help EAF help those living with HIV/AIDS and their families and loved ones. I looked up and was happy to see Melissa who is part of our Harley group. Larry saw Bob, a professor he hired years ago, and Marie who teaches in Fairhaven College and worked with him at WWU. To most of the people on the cruise, I was Michael’s mom and I thought to myself that when the kids were in school I was always someone’s mom and hadn’t been defined that way in a long time out in public.

I was told to bring a sweater and maybe a warmer coat for when it cooled off in the evening. Well it was one of those rare Washington days with the temperature was in the eighties and only once did a slight breeze come up--but not enough to make me run for the coat. I forgot my camera and it would have been a perfect evening to take pictures of the moon coming over the mountains with the sun setting at the same time. But the memories are in my heart and will be treasured.

To find out more about The Evergreen Aids Foundation, go to:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Northwest Washington Fair

Monday was the first day of the Northwest Washington Fair and Larry was working at a table for Community In Schools so I decided to go with him and wander around the fair to see the sights. It has been four years since I went to the fair with my daughter Kelly.

I found the exhibition building with quilts and admired the artistic craftsmanship and also found myself comparing my mother’s quilts to the ones who had won awards. One of the differences in my mother’s quilts and most of the quilts at the fair, is that my moms quilts are all hand pieced, appliquéd, embroidered, and quilted on an old fashioned quilt frame. Not a machine stitch on her quilts. My mother just learned to quilt in a different period of time and that style of quilting might soon be lost.

I checked out all the vendors but really didn’t find anything I wanted or needed so I went to view the rabbits and chickens. The bunnies were really cute but my bird dog would just love to hunt them down so I don’t think I’ll have bunnies in my backyard. The chickens came in every color and size. Some of the roosters didn’t seem to realize that sunrise was hours ago. I would love to have a little hen house in the backyard and then I could call them may Harley chicks.

There were dahlias to see in every color, art, photographs, baked goods, table settings, and what would a fair be without home canned fruits and vegetables. Cotton candy, snow cones, and donuts, the smells were wonderful and I didn’t give in to temptation.

The dairy cow barn was next on my list of items to see. Some of my earliest memories are living on a small farm in Missouri. My mom had three cows, a Guernsey, a Jersey, and a Holstein. I remember mom said that one was better for butter and the others for drinking milk. I just remember how big they looked when I was so little and how good they smelled in the barn with fresh hay. Two of the cows at the fair will probably deliver calves at the fair and that will be an experience for those who get to watch a live birth. I saw my first calf born when I was about nine, visiting my aunt’s farm.

The baby goats, lamas, and sheep were cute and they were judging while I was there. It was fun to watch the kids dressed up and taking charge. Other kids were cleaning and grooming their animals and several were milking goats. Warm milk is another one of those smells I remember from the dairy barn.

I had saved the best to last, the horses. Miniatures to Clydesdales, three barns full. You could hear the clip clop of the heavy hooves on the pavement when the Clydesdales came in and out of the barn. They were magnificent with their manes braided and decorative ribbons in their tales. The wagons were all lined up and the draft horse hitches show will be later in the week. All the 4H kids were working in the barns, cleaning, straightening, answering questions and they had all the stall doors decorated. One couple had a pair of mules and it was fun to talk to them since I am from the show me state “Missouri” known for being stubborn as a mule.

I met Larry at the end of his shift and we found a shaded food area to have lunch. We had our picture taken back in the barns for a wanted poster and then we headed home. It was a wonderful day and brought back a lot of childhood memories.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Naked, but Not Naughty

Naked lady flowers were my grandmother Chloe’s favorite plant. The flowers are also referred to as Belladonna Lilies and resurrection lilies, and they may be naked (no leaves) but they are not naughty. When I was in California my mother had these growing in several places in her garden and the gardener had to move a few and had not replanted them yet so mom told me to take them home.

Now I have these special flowers in my garden and every time I look at them I will think of my grandmother and my mom, two of the most important women who shaped my life.

The wedding of Kelly and Ryan

Saturday evening Kelly and Ryan committed their lives to each other. The rain gave way to a beautiful garden setting that was enchanting. Everyone mingled, no aisles, no bride or grooms side, just one gathering to celebrate the love that these two young people share.

I first met Kelly B. and her brother Ian when my kids Michael, Kelly, and I moved to Washington ten years ago. Larry was renting a home next to their parents on the Straights of San Juan De Fuca.

The kids went back and forth between the two homes and we included Ian and Kelly in all our family traditions. Michael and Kelly B. became best friends sharing all the ups, downs, good, bad, and best friend’s secrets. So it was fitting that Michael became Kelly’s wedding planner/coordinator for her wedding.

I watched Ryan during the ceremony and he never took his eyes off Kelly, the love of his life. Kelly smiled back into Ryan’s eyes letting him know she loved him completely. The family of both the bride and groom and all their friends shared in this joyous occasion.

God blessed this union and the rain only came appeared when everyone was safely under the cover of the reception hall. The wedding was held at a private residence that rents out the grounds and facilities to weddings and events. The gardens were well tended and flowers bloomed everywhere. There seemed to be no detail untended, and Michaels planning had everyone and everything on schedule.

Larry and I were seated at table #3. This table was family of the groom and close friend’s of Kelly’s parents. Several family members had to leave early and Ryan’s grandmother joined us. When the showers turned into a downpour we were moved to table #20 away from the rain and a much warmer spot. We all began to interact and form a connection. We stole mints from the other tables and we became known as the “unique” table because we had a ring of fire from all the candles that we some how accumulated. Other tables gave us their candles and we spelled out the initials of Kelly and Ryan and we far surpassed table #15 who accused us of being candle stealers. Michael would just smile as he passed us by and the DJ would occasionally mention our table by number.

Michael found a few extra mints and dropped them by our table. A firefighter from another table tried to extinguish some of our candles for safety but we arm wrestled to keep her away. The music played on and our table was clearly the life of the party, well after the bride and grooms table. We were after all there for a wedding celebration.

After the cake was cut and the bride and groom had their first dance, Larry and I left our table to retreat home. It was an evening to be remembered and I am sure it was all captured by the two photographers who just happened to be lurking around catch table #23 in the act. I am sure Michael never imagined when he did seating charts that our table would be the one everyone talked about during and after the wedding. “Unique.”

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Random tidbits from CA

Home Alone
Well almost alone! If you don’t count the dog who wants to be #1 and the cat who is #1, then Larry is home alone but always in my heart, body and soul, forever and ever.

Mimi’s Café
Where to eat when we go out to dinner when visiting my mom? Mimi’s! Where else would I want to go?

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s all good. The decor is all about Mardi Gras and New Orleans: Pictures, memorabilia, and art hung from every available wall space but not gaudy looking, just comfortable--“Big Easy” style. I haven’t eaten anything there that I don’t like and my mom’s favorite thing is the dark, rich, moist carrot raisin bread they serve while waiting for your meal to be prepared.

I want a Mimi’s Cafe in Whatcom County. I wrote them and told them I wanted a Mimi’s Cafe. My brother Jerry has one in Arkansas, so why can’t I have one in my backyard?!!

Sunday Supper
Sunday afternoon Mary and I went off to the store to buy the makings for dinner of soup and sandwiches before our canasta game. Mary later said we were just getting our daily dose of “C” when we wound up eating chips, cheese, and chocolate with a little sweet tea for Sunday supper. I wonder if Mary put that in the canasta journal.

Spoiled Rotten
My favorite summer salad of cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes would have been more than enough for dinner, but mom made one of her casseroles and we had a feast with watermelon to snack on and blackberry cobbler for dessert.

Pie dough cookies with sugar and cinnamon for an afternoon snack brought back fond memories of baking with my mom. Mom said she hadn’t made these cookies in…she couldn’t remember when.

Sitting around the dinner table sharing stories or telling stories about adventures in between visits is the glue that binds our lives together.

The Surprise
When I first moved to Washington ten years ago, I would write an email newsletter to my family each week to let them know how we were doing in our new home. I had never lived more than two and half hours away from my parents and family, and most of my life I lived only twenty minutes away from them. Now two states and about nine hundred miles, makes it seem like a million miles some days. My kids missed their weekly family dinners or just dropping in on a Saturday to say hi for a short visit.

How could I stay connected even though we weren’t physically close by? I began to write about living in our new home on the beach, the kids settling into school, looking for a our own home to buy and all the little things that happen during an average week.

My dad loved to read about our new adventures and mom said he would sometimes re-read the emails a number of times. Several computer hard drive crashes later and all the copies of my emails were lost, or so I thought. My mom surprised me with copies of all those early writings, thinking that some day my children would like to have them. This was an unexpected surprise, like finding the only photograph of a long lost relative and the sense of joy it brings.

Smarter and wiser, I now have a backup drive and we are about to have online storage so never again will photos, letters, documents, be left to chance stored on my computer.

Jelly Jars, Cookie and Pie Tins
Jim came down to have dinner with the family on Tuesday. He brought back all his empty jelly jars to my mom and when he went home that night she gave him a new supply of jelly along with a peach cobbler. I wonder if he will try to return the pie tin for refills like he does his jelly jars. Silly me, I left my cookie tin at home.

The Suitcase
One bag and fifty pounds, which is the airlines new limits when you travel. My bag only weighed thirty-seven pounds when I flew down and now it was fifty-two pounds. Fifty-two pounds and I don’t have everything packed. What to do? What don’t I need until November? One by one I pulled all the extra miscellaneous items I accumulated after I arrived, and now I had to make decisions. What goes home, what stays at mom’s? Art supplies can stay, the new blue pumps my sister gave me have to go home with me, the camera from the garage sale can wait and the scrapbook paper needs to go (it was just too good a deal to pass up). It’s not a matter of space, just weight. How much can I get into my carry-on bag and still have room for the naked lady flower bulbs? Priorities! I guess I will have to start bringing a small suitcase as my carry-on bag in the future.

I hate saying good-bye. It doesn’t matter if I am the one leaving or the one being left behind. My sister Suzie told me when I was about twelve that it is always harder being the one left behind. Missing someone you can not see whenever you want because you are parted by miles is not easy. When it is your mom it is even harder.

I treasure every moment we have together when I go for a visit. Gardening, cooking, playing cards, reading the newspaper over a cup of tea, it really is the simple things in life that mean the most.

I’m already looking forward to Thanksgiving when Larry will come home with me for a family celebration.

The Canasta Queen

I was raised sitting around a table playing canasta with my parents, siblings, and grandparents. Sometimes my Aunt Dot, Uncle Jack, and my cousins would join us or we would all go to their home. I learned to play with two people or as many as eight people in a game. It was family fun with everyone trying to choose the best playing partner, and the kids all being buddied up with grown ups to learn from their experience.

We usually had a big southern style supper of chicken or catfish if my dad, granddad, and uncle had gone fishing that day. My mom, grandmother, and aunt made jell-o salads, fruit, vegetables; dessert was homemade cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream or all of the above. When the kids got bored or tired out, we slowly dropped out of the card game and retreated to other rooms to play with our toys and games.

Mom and dad began playing aggravation with Uncle Leonard and Aunt Faye on their trips to Missouri. Then it became the game of choice. Mary played every week with our parents and it was a battle of wills between dad and Mary who could out-throw the other with dice and knock the other one back to the starting point. My dad played until several months before his death when he was confined to a hospital bed at home. We put the game away after my dad passed away because my mom found no pleasure in playing without my dad.

When my mom celebrated her ninetieth birthday five months after my dad died, I flew to California to help her celebrate. Everyone had gone home one night and we were sitting in the living room reminiscing about when I grew up and things my children learned from me that I had learned from my parents. Somehow we started talking about the canasta games we used to play and how Kelly is the only one of my kids that knows how to play.

Mom said she wasn’t sure she remembered how to play since it had been so long ago since she had played a game. Mom found two decks of cards and we decided to give it a try. We made mistakes then would realize our errors and go on to the next game and the next, and the next. About 3:00 AM we gave it up and went to bed. That night the “Canasta Queen” was revealed (mom).

My sister Mary dropped in later the next day, amazed that we had played cards most of the night. Mary was even more amazed to find out we stayed up half the night, again, playing cards. Well, the third night Mary joined us. Mom and I found out we still had a few of the rules wrong but we were having fun. The rest of the trip was spent around the table watching my mom begin to smile again. The long lonely days of grieving were slowly passing. Mom will always miss my dad but the healing process had begun. I flew home a few days later, but Mary still continues to play canasta with my mom every week.

Mary warmed me this trip that I would have to keep an eye on mom because she can go out and win the game before you even have a chance to get started. It is a pleasant way to spend the evening playing cards and laughing, spending time with my mom and sister. Mary keeps a score book and at the top of each page for a new game, she records the date, the weather, and anything special for that day.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Great Garage Sale

My sister Mary can always find a bargain no matter where she is traveling--distance is not a problem and Mary can find a way to get her treasures home every time. It’s when she gets them home that has caused her to own several storage sheds in which to keep her “extra” items as she rotates her finds in and out of her home.

With her latest home remodeled she has sort of, kind of, maybe decided to sell a few of these items tucked away in different locations in town. Saturday she had a garage sale number????—even she can’t remember. She has one or two sales a year and she does really well because of her initial bargain shopping; she can make a profit and the buyer always get a fair deal. This is why the dealers also show up at her home at 6:30 AM to get the best items. Mary said she has boxes, bins, and tubs of items given to her that she hasn’t even explored yet for possible sales.

Near the end of the day a lady was looking at some plates and Mary couldn’t figure out how one of her sets of Christmas plates wound up on the table. Her friend Katherine said they belonged to her but that Mary could have them. Mary just laughed and said she already had over one hundred plates stored under her bed. Mary has an annual Christmas party for between eighty and one hundred people every Christmas after the house is decorated and she only uses dishes that match her themes. I told her she better not break the bed or she would cry. Think of the really large mosaic project we could do!

Mom and I went to check out the sale, taking tea and mom’s fresh homemade cookies to Mary and her friends helping her. I strolled around the tables several times to see what was left and what I wanted--not needed. Yes I took home a few of her garage sale items, junk jewelry, rubber stamps, some old wooden thread spools, old seam bindings, and a vintage movie camera complete with leather carrying case. Most of these new treasures will be used in my art projects. I think this is why Mary planned the sale when I was visiting. Look out Larry.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I Love You Honey

Growing up, my siblings and I always felt special and loved by both my parents. Their Christian morals and values provided a firm faith foundation to family life, and it was their nurturing, without criticism, that helped us learn how to help ourselves. I modeled being a mother after my own mom. I kissed the hurts away when my children were small, held them when life hurt them, and tried to always show them how to deal with unexpected circumstances. Most of all I loved them each for who they were individually.

It didn’t matter what age my kids were when they got angry or made at me, I always told them I loved them, even when I was angry or mad at them. Being loved will get you through life’s most difficult obstacles. You never know if you are going to get a second chance to tell someone you love them--so don’t have regrets later for not having told them how you feel.

Each night at my mom’s, she still tells me, “I love you honey” and gives me a kiss on the forehead. Even with three grown children of my own, it’s comforting to feel like a kid again--safe at home with mom.

This is the nurturing experience. It is what people look for in day spas, or retreats, or find in other people. Being pampered and cared for and reciprocating; doing something for someone else for no reason at all; sending a card or e-card, making cookies, smiling at others, offering a kind word to a clerk, and saying I love you to family--Everyone needs kindness in their lives.

I know that I am blessed and loved by my husband, my children, my mother, my family.

Joshua 1:5…I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Isaiah 49:15-16… I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Garden of Memories

Just enough time to take care of business—well, most of it--do my laundry, and repack my bag, and then I was off to California. Larry did his own grocery shopping and that allowed me to be lazy, lounging around in my pajamas while I took care of little tasks, played in my studio, and mostly worked on the computer. What I couldn’t finish I took with me to complete by phone after I arrived at my moms.

My mom is ninety-one and I hadn’t seen her since Christmas. Several weeks ago she was involved in an automobile accident when someone else ran a red light. We thought the family would all be in Branson Missouri right now for a family reunion but we had to cancel. So I was bound for Concord, California. The most important purpose of the journey was just to spend time with my mom and to plant flowers to fill in the bare spots and make the garden look pretty again.

My love of gardening comes from both my parents; I can only remember bits and pieces of living on a small farm in Greenfield, Missouri. We had cows and my mom made her own butter, even winning a contest churning butter. My parents bought me a butter churn just like the one my mom won her contest with and although I was slow cranking the handle, I did make butter for my kids. We left the cows, pigs, ducks, and chickens behind when we moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma.

Friends of my parents shared a large plot of land to garden on just outside of town. We would drive to the garden after dad got off work in the early evening to pull weeds, pick what was ripe and ready to be used or canned for the winter. I lived on fresh vegetables and fruit in the summer, with a good hamburger thrown in once in awhile. Mom made her own dill pickles in crocks she kept in the basement. I loved to pull back the dill leaves sprinkled with salt and dip into the brine to start eating pickles long before most people would consider a cucumber a real dill pickle. The shelves in the basement held everything from stewed tomatoes to spiced pickled peaches.

Our move to California left little room in the backyard to garden, but mom and dad always seemed to find room for cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and chives. Our first home did have a large orchard filled with every kind of fruit tree you could imagine so I spent my summers crawling up into the trees and eating my fill before moving on to the next tree. Homemade apple butter and bread seemed to round out my food groups for the summer with watermelon or cantaloupe for dessert. With the warmer California weather my dad built a round three tier strawberry bed at our next home and mom made strawberry jam and jelly that rivaled her pineapple apricot jam.

The little nineteen forties cottage mom now lives in has raised beds that dad built for strawberries--and Michael claims they are his. Apple, peach, and apricot trees provide the makings for fried pies and dried apple slices and the berry vines keep the family content with cobblers. Two years a go we planted grape vines and mom and the squirrels battled over who would get to eat them last year. We also planted a lemon tree in honor of my father last year.

Richard is a friend of my sister Mary and we have hired him to do the weeding and maintenance for our mom which allows her to enjoy tending her flowers, vegetables, and time to just sit on the patio to enjoy it all. Richard really works hard for my mom because she keeps his glass filled with southern sweet tea and provides him with continuous cookies, cobblers, pies, and baked goods.

Mary and I made several trips to the garden store to purchase flowers for the garden next to the driveway. I spent nine hours in the garden alongside my brother-in-law Poncho and Richard removing an overgrown hedge that blocked the sunlight and, more importantly, my mother wanted it removed since she moved in forty years ago. All gone! Now fifty-three new plants are all in the ground and it could have been more. A white picket fence next spring to finish off the garden and it will be beautiful. We planted snapdragons, ground-cover roses, agapanthus, wave petunias, penstemon, English lavender, pentas, poppies, chrysanthemum paludosum, hibiscus, jewels of opar, red sage, purple alyssum seed, a red pelargonium, Russian sage, and variegated lantana. At the end of the day, mom and I had a simple and satisfying meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh peach cobbler. “Will work for mom’s home cooking and tea.”

I have a daylily in my garden that started life as a small start from my mother’s garden. I have divided it into five pieces that I have replanted around my yard and one piece to share with a friend named Lisa who has a garden that is a little bare right now. My mom always told me that is how most country gardens started--friends sharing cuttings, so the tradition will continue.

I’ve tried bringing home pieces of the agapanthus and the African iris but my winters are too cold and the snow and freezing temperatures always win the battle. My dad laughed one year as I gathered up probably two hundred seeds from the African iris to take home as he was cutting back the parent plant that tried to take over the front yard and produced baby plants faster than he could weed them out.

Gardening has gotten me through both the hardships and joys in life. Jim brought me nasturtium seeds when he was in kindergarten, Michael made me a birdhouse garden stake, and Kelly encouraged me to plant her favorite lupines. I work in the garden and it is my quiet time to talk to God. My parents instilled in me a love for gardening and I am grateful. From my kitchen window I can look out and see the tree my small group from church gave to me as a memory tree for my father and the round wooden tree bench that Larry gave me for my birthday to put around the tree.
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