Lessons From Earlier Gardeners

My parents bought their first and only home in the early 1950s. It was to that house I was taken as a newborn baby, and it was from that house I moved out in the early 1980s when I married.

My dear Mom planted all kinds of things — but usually, the ordinary garden must-haves: geraniums, tulips, and I suspect she may have been the one who planted crocus. I especially remember the crocus that were some of the earliest bloomers, sometimes up through a dusting of snow.  Here she is doing a little gardening with her youngest granddaughter.

My Dad loved wildflowers — he made a rock garden along the side of our neighbor’s garage. He filled it with wildflowers: Bloodroot, Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lily of the Valley, ferns, and hostas. In addition, we had a patch of rhubarb that he would occasionally cut for me, which I thought a great treat.  As the picture demonstrates — he also loved feeding the birds.

But like Ron, Dad loved Roses. One time at a rather scary cost. We had some beautiful yellow roses at the side of our house.  Dad was cutting some to bring inside when he had a run-in with something, we suspected a spider. We first noticed it after he came into the house and rolled up his shirt sleeves. There was a nasty red line running from a cut in his hand clear up his arm. We took him to the hospital, where a doctor dealt with the venom. I suspect he was a little more careful after that.

But despite the occasional mishap, it is wonderful to have a little taste of heaven on earth.  It is lovely to have a home filled with flowers. When you have planted and tended them, it is even sweeter.  Thank you, Mom, Dad, and my dear Ronnie, for all the beauty you brought into my life.

Posted in Family, Heaven, Love | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

His Dream Job

My husband died over a year ago, and the date of his burial is about a month away. I’ve had to go back to work after being out of the workforce since 2016, but thankfully, only part-time. That has allowed me the leeway to make some plans.

My husband loved roses. He used to tell me that his dream job, after his death, would be to plant roses in heaven. We lived in a variety of places together. He spent the majority of his life in Arizona. I was an Ohio girl who had lived the bulk of my adult life in South Carolina.  Eventually, Ron and I met and corresponded long-distance. He lived in Arizona, and I lived in South Carolina. He flew out to join the celebration for a milestone birthday and brought with him an original painting of his as a gift to me. It was unframed. He told me if I wanted the frame, I would have to fly to Arizona to collect it. In time, I did just that. We corresponded for several years, during which I learned much about the man, his character, his faith, and his passion for roses.

Over the years, Ron told me quite a few times, that his idea of a dream job would be to be allowed to plant roses in heaven. Since his death, there have been two massive excavations of our yard. A water line burst and backed up into our basement. Our yard needed to be landscaped to slope down, away from our house. An overgrown, weedy garden in the back needed to be bulldozed and have grass seed put there.  Now I have a blank canvas to paint!

I get to play gardener for a while. I’m not the expert my husband was, but I have some imagination. The tall wooden fence behind our patio blocks our backyard from view. It is going to be cut in a sloping curve and painted, then the backyard will be visible. In the center of the the very back of the yard, I want to plant a white Dogwood tree.

There was a beautiful one in front of my parents’ home, the home where I grew up.  I want a Dogwood behind Ronnie’s and my home.   But we have to have Roses!

I want some comfortable places to sit and this is the perfect place for adding roses. I found a picture I liked that I include here:

I think I would eventually like two of these in the back of our yard, mirror images of each other, on either side of the Dogwood.  But instead of the pink roses, I want red roses.  My favorite place for roses is Jackson Perkins, and they have beautiful red climbing roses.  They are called Don Juan climbing roses, or, if you read Lord Byron — Don Jew-an roses.   They will look beautiful covering those lovely arches.  These are the ones for me!

I love and miss Ronnie very much.   I think he would have enjoyed these choices, and I like to think that perhaps, God will allow him a glimpse and that Ron will smile down from heaven.   Bless him for making the call to move us to Ohio.  It is our last house.   I mean to make our house and yard one that he would have enjoyed!  Ron was an amazing gardener.   I hope that I  can create a little paradise in the yard of our last home.

Posted in Family, Heaven, Love, Marriage | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Swing Set and Engine Hoist

I doubt that my male friends who work on cars would naturally think of a swingset as a possible engine hoist – but then ours was not an ordinary swing set. Anchored on one end by a substantial Pear Tree growing around the crossbar it wasn’t going anywhere.

It was in the summer of 1965 that it was first commandeered by my eldest brother to pull the motor and transmission from a ‘54 Olds and install them in his ‘36 Plymouth Coupe. Then in the summer of ‘68, he commandeered it again, this time to pull the same motor out of the same Plymouth, because by then he had decided to rebuild the ‘36. Unfortunately, he commandeered it one last time, to pull the motor out of a ‘56 Chevy in late ‘66, but that vehicle got towed during the night as he had parked it on the street without valid plates. To recover the car would have cost more money than it was worth – so he let it go. Sad that.

Families are all different. I have some friends who are the oldest in their families – and their growing up was entirely different from mine. They grew up liking different music, watching different movies, caring about different things. I’m the youngest in my family with three older brothers, and my two oldest brothers worked to make sure that I grew up appreciating rock & roll, and always gave me grief whenever I succumbed to bubblegum music.

All three of my brothers – despite wars or rumors of wars – are amazingly talented, each with varied educational backgrounds, job histories, musical tastes, and interests. Despite our differences, all three have come to my rescue on multiple occasions. My eldest brother moved out of the house when I was six, my second brother moved out when I was eight, and my youngest brother left home for college when I was in junior high. My youngest brother had the dubious honor of living a few blocks from the various places I used to live while away at college – and so he and his wife got to deal with my first-time-away-from-home years. Bless them all – they weathered their dealings with me – and I can still count on each of them.

It may be kind of weird given our ages, but my eldest brother and I have always been particularly close. Even when I was a kid he never seemed to mind me hanging around, he always kept in touch with me when I was away from home via snail mail or phone calls, and he always took me places. He took me to a few movies, and one or two rock concerts – I remember going to hear Chicago in the fall of 1972; and he had invited me to hear the Guess Who – but I backed out of that one when I got asked to my high school junior prom. He also took me for long rides all around northern Ohio on the back of his Norton motorcycle that he had made into a chopper.

He moved my possessions for me twice – once out of a college dorm, and decades later he rented a trailer, and we drove my inherited things from Ohio to South Carolina.  He drove from Ohio to northern Alabama to look for a rust free ’69 Chevelle for me — I wanted that to be my first car, and he had pledged to rebuild one for me.   He cheered me by sending me pictures of the progress (like this 455 Buick V8 engine he put in it).  It would have been the best car anywhere!  But I never even got to drive it. I had to sell it because I needed the money when I was about to be married. (Here is a picture of it with the new owner and a new paint job.)He had been a tool and die maker who spent much of his career working for GM. Before working for GM though, he took a break from tool and die making and went back to college at the same time that I was in college in another town. We ended up graduating the same year, and our wider family celebrated our graduations at a nifty dinner out together.

Every family is unique, some are dysfunctional, or at odds with one another, some are amazing and caring, loving and forgiving. I am so grateful for my family. My brothers and I are now the oldest generation in our family. We had terrific parents who were best friends with each other and very much in love. They loved each of us and tried their best to instill some values in us, raised us in church, taught us some history including family history, and they did their best to encourage us to care about things that matter.

All of us have weathered some hard times and dark days. But we are all still hanging on, we are all still colorful in unique ways, the four of us are all musical, which is a little weird, and we are all still proud of our roots and our family. Can’t ask for too much more than that.

So to D, E, and J – I say thank you – I’m honored to be your kid sister. To D – thanks for commandeering my swing set and for showing up at all the right times.

Posted in Family, Friendship | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Roadrunners and Javelina

My husband was brought to Arizona when he was just five years old and he has lived most of his life here. Before I moved with him to Arizona in 2012, I had lived and worked in Ohio, Switzerland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and South Carolina. An experienced traveler, I thought I knew about most critters both wild and domestic. My education was augmented by the spectacular film footage of the movie Princess Bride with its excellent documentation of Rodents of Unusual Size, aka ROUS. I thought that these combined experiences would suitably prepare me for life in Arizona. I was mistaken.

My nearly native Arizonan husband brought my daughter and me on vacation here a few years before our move. On that visit we first experienced the Saguaro Cactus and learned that they can easily crush a car or take out the wall of a house should they fall. We saw the various short scrubby trees whose branches resemble feather dusters. Such trees were new to this adult woman who was used to good sized leaves like any self-respecting mid-western child could collect and press between sheets of wax paper.

We went on picnics where I was introduced to the Greater Roadrunner, an omnivore, who can run at speeds of 20 miles per hour. We saw ground squirrels lying spread eagle on the shaded concrete patio floor of a local Cantina, trying to cool down from the desert heat. We saw huge foraging birds flying in circles over something dead in the desert. All of these were of interest to my daughter and me, but there was more.

Eventually, my husband and my then college-age-daughter persuaded me to move to Arizona from South Carolina. We rented a place while we looked for something to buy. People new to the area often have never seen anything like it and say ill-informed things like the young woman we met, who opined that we should bulldoze the Sonoran Desert and “do something useful with it.” My husband needed to quickly relocate himself so that he would not counter that ignorant statement with graphic Navy words.

There is no place quite like the Sonoran Desert. The houses that are springing up on acre after acre fill me with sorrow and my husband with anger. After about a year in our rental house, my daughter came to stay with us on her Christmas break from college. After much too long an absence, her remarkable godmother flew in from California to visit with all of us. We had a great visit, and all four of us went with our realtor to view a house our realtor thought we needed to see. Everyone convinced us that it was the house we ought to buy, and it was here that my Arizona education genuinely commenced.

Still smokers in those days, my husband and I would go out on the back patio late at night and in the early morning hours when it was dark. It was then that we would hear the coyotes howling and yipping in the park behind our home. We watched the birds of prey cruise low over our neighborhood’s backyards around dinnertime looking for a tasty small dog or cat to pick up and carry away for a picnic. A friend showed us the photographic evidence of a hunter who took down a mountain lion a couple of miles from where we live. Various neighbors told us of seeing Bobcats walking atop the backyard walls. In time, one walked atop our wall, jumped down, and explored our backyard – up close and personal.

However, nothing prepared me for the Collared Peccary or Javelina. I had seen a stuffed one in a store window in Tombstone. That was instructive as I saw the front teeth that

[photo courtesy of Neal Lutyens]

should never be underestimated. Our friends, whose yard is not walled, and which is next to a broad swath of desert land, have Javelina that come to their house and patio. But the scariest time was when some Javelina babies fell into their sunken walled garden, planted when they took out a pool long ago. Our friend thought that he would try to lift the babies up out of that three-foot hole. You know what they say – never come between a Mama & her babies. Close call, that!

I love the view from our yard; I love the Santa Rita Mountains just west of us. I love the cactus and sunsets that we see from our patio and which form the banner photo for my blog. But I have to say that the Javelina are a coat of a different color. I believe that my response to them should be to respect their power and teeth and keep a distance. Javelina remind me of the rodents of unusual size from the Princess Bride movie, but they also make me wonder whether the God of creation has a weirdly peculiar sense of humor.  What do you think?

Posted in Animals, Education | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Hats off to Mark Twain

Time has felt a little oppressive lately. I have a cold, sore throat, earache, and headache at present. No big deal, but slowing me down. Worse, I still don’t have my Christmas tree. The grandest room in our house is the dining room, and presently it is full of ornament boxes looking for a place to go.

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post called Mark Twain and Plans for December. If you click on the purple word Advent in the Tag section on the right, you will find a link to that blog post.

I reread it today, and while there are similarities, there are many differences. However, one chief point is helpful to remember. Sometimes it is essential to step out, take a breather, hit the pause button to focus on what is central.

Advent is upon us. Christians know it as the four Sundays before Christmas when we prepare for the birth of Jesus, which we celebrate on Christmas day.

Mark Twain and Plans for December

There are many fun things to do in the days leading up to Christmas — packages to wrap, cookies to bake, trees to decorate. But take a breather and focus on the coming of the one born in a stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Watch and wait — His birth changes everything. Thanks be to God!

Posted in Life in these times, Love | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Decorating For Christmas

Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent, and it dawned on me yesterday that I better get busy. It helps that it has snowed since yesterday morning, and there is NO WAY that I am going out. I did that yesterday, which was enough for this woman who spent 24 years of her life in South Carolina, and six years in Arizona. As I left the cold of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut behind in 1988, it is taking me a few years to get used to it again. The picture below is what greeted me today.

Below is a picture from my dining room last year:

I am going back to decorating. I hope that you and yours enjoy Advent — and the snow if you have it and like it!

Posted in Life in these times | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Day After Thanksgiving

Let me begin by hoping that you and yours have had a blessed Thanksgiving.

In my book, that includes these hopes:

  • no one choked on a turkey bone
  • no one got in an accident driving to or from the location of the feast
  • no one overturned the gravy on great-grandma’s linen tablecloth
  • if living alone, that you had good food, good music, or a great movie to engage you
  • the food was both delicious and plentiful
  • the conversation was engaging
  • after the meal, you still had room for pie

Since my dear husband’s death earlier this year — I have had many firsts. But I have to say that this Thanksgiving was delightfully happy. My daughter, who lives many states away, is an exquisite baker of pies (she has many talents, but this is the yummiest).  The pie that got my attention was baked in a split pie pan. I had no idea that such a pan existed. She baked an apple pie on one side and a cherry pie on the other.

www.facebook.com/PalmettoWrenPies

I got to join my brother and his wife for dinner. That was great fun, and I brought home enough for dinner tonight. We went out to a restaurant for dinner, and then they took me to their house to watch the first Christmas movie of the season. When I got home, I was greeted with quite a few messages from friends hoping that I had a good Thanksgiving. Indeed I did.

There is much to be grateful for — and I am, indeed, a very thankful woman.

Posted in Family, Friendship | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Advent of Our God and Politics in Places of Worship

Some time ago, one of my readers sent me a private message asking if I would discuss whether Pastors, Rabbis, Priests should address current political issues when teaching or preaching to the gathered faithful. Although I know what I think about this, I was curious about my FB friends’ views. So I asked. A wide variety of friends and family commented. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that there were times when responses got a tad heated.

One man whom I’ve known for about forty years said that he left a church because of this very thing. The congregation was always told what they should care about in politics and what actions they should take.

No one likes to be told what to think or how to vote. One person suggested that:

“If it is brought up, it should be done in a way that is not partisan and focuses on the theological/pastoral arguments for a policy in broad terms.”

Many church denominations have an appointed lectionary, which lists the daily and weekly lessons for worship, study, and devotional use. In the Lutheran church, we have a reading from the Old Testament, from the Psalms, from the New Testament, and one of the four Gospels. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Byzantine Christians, Jews, and many denominations have their lectionaries. Those texts teach us the faith – the faith passed down through the generations. If our teachers and preachers expound on those texts faithfully, we will get a rich background in what scripture teaches.

In the Christian church, this coming Sunday is the first in the season of Advent. There are four Sundays in Advent, and they are the start of the new church year. They lead us to Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Of Him, we teach and confess that He is the Son of God, True God and True Man, born of the Virgin Mary.

If we belong to a liturgical church and learn the liturgy and listen to the lessons of scripture and the thoughtful preaching or teaching on the text, we will learn some things about what God loves and what is an abomination to God.

If the only thing a teacher or preacher talks about is politics, we will not learn the fundamental answer of who and whose we are.

The ten commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai talk about how we should live, how we should treat others, what defines our relationship with the creator of the world.

If we learn those things and take those laws of God to heart, then we will grow the vision to see what God expects of us. If we pay attention to the scripture lessons, we won’t need to be told that it is wrong to kill babies. If we pay attention to the scripture lessons, we will know that voting for Hitler is evil.

Some of my friends have been driven away from places of worship. Some of my friends have minimal connection to places of worship. If you have also been burned, I invite you to try again.

Read scripture, find a place to worship God, start listening to what is said, and read from scripture. Start connecting the dots.

Believing in God doesn’t make everything rosy. It doesn’t make us impervious to hardship, illness, sin, or death. The taxman still comes. Work still demands our attention. Sometimes we discover that believing in God will pinch and require us to rethink who we plan to vote for, what proposal we work to get made into law.

On the other hand, it provides the tools to navigate the twists and turns of life. It places our story in the broader historical tapestry of the children of God. We were created, loved, and called upon to share that love with others. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy. So we start with baby steps:

  • Start with being kind.
  • Start with telling the truth.
  • Start with simple thoughtfulness
  • Hold the door
  • Offer a ride
  • Help someone in need
  • Invite someone to dinner

When someone asks for prayers, say some. They don’t need to be eloquent – they need to be said.

Read and listen and think about what you can do this day to follow the Lord of Life.

Posted in Charity, Church, Education, Family, Friendship, Life in these times, Love, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Drafted, 1941

I scrawled the following lines in 2004,  about my parents during WWII.  They married in 1941 and had six months before my father had to report for duty. Between March 1942 and October 1945, he served under General Patton in four  European campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe.  In the picture below he was on furlough — shortly before the end of his service.

Six-month reprieve on which to found
a marriage.
War trains to Fort Bragg, Fort Sill.
her train to Temple, Texas. Thick billowing soot
dyes her new yellow dress—black
before she reached you and Camp Hood
tank destroyer center.

Ships passage. You left
for four campaigns: service under
Patton. She waits, like other wives,
and finds your letters home
come ten-days-worth at a time. For you,
rooftop snipers and crooked paintings
rigged to explode. Americans
have crossed the sea.

And still, she waits and fills her days with busy
wartime work —
while where you are
butcher, mortician, and pharmacist tend to triage.
And in the afternoon, a German officer
walks into camp, surrenders weapons, medals:
Iron Cross
to keep ahead of Stalin.

Yet more she waits,
ten days of letters come,
and yet, more letters, snipers, and more days
before Fort Bragg and home.

1945  320th in K.D.F. Stadt Germany

Posted in Family, Marriage, War | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mea Culpa

I am always impressed by the many bloggers who write regularly, thoughtfully, and on time. I set out to write two blog posts a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays at approximately 1 p.m. Eastern time. Alas, Today is WEDNESDAY. I was on the road yesterday and was unable to publish a post.

I was dealing with an inheritance of sorts — a medical condition I came by honestly, inherited from my Maternal Grandmother and my Mom. So that no one goes off the deep end with worry, let me say that there is nothing serious going on. I am in fine fettle. The problem is that I inherited their feet. They are not pretty to look at, and they cause a great deal of pain when wearing ordinary shoes.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I moved to Ohio from Arizona. We bought a house built in 1855 in a town with about 6000 people. Occasionally, that means driving to other towns nearby for goods or services. Yesterday I went to Fostoria to see a Podiatrist regarding my great inheritance. He explained the surgery and recovery time should I have my feet fixed. After hearing him out — I am convinced that I do not want to pursue it. However, he was kind enough to do some maintenance so that my feet are much happier than when I arrived at his office.

When I left, I had a lovely drive home — farmland for as far as the eye can see, punctuated by an occasional small town,  and a few wispy clouds in a beautiful blue sky. I can’t tell you how the land cheered me. Occasional hills, but mostly flat farmland, freshly mowed or harvested, with some of the staples of farms — barns, silos, equipment, farmhouses, straight rows. It was a lovely conclusion to a worthwhile appointment.

Posted in Family, Life in these times | Tagged | 2 Comments