May Day

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When I was a kid, we looked forward to May Day, when we could make a small bouquet and put it into a basket (usually woven of paper or gathered from doilies) to hang on a neighbor’s front door knob. The idea was to give an anonymous gift of flowers and love, but do it without getting caught.

The best part, of course, was running away before anyone would answer the door, and watching the reaction from somewhere close by.

I didn’t have anything blooming this morning, but my BFF Vickie shared a beautiful bouquet on Facebook explaining that I had taught her long ago about giving flowers to those you love on May Day. So even though the calendar on my computer says it is already May 2, I’m still going to share flowers with all of you.

This “Luxury Lace” iris used to grow in Mom’s garden, but Daddy asked me to bring it to Visalia. Happy May Day!

Z is for “zest”

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Google.com defines “zest” as a verb that means “to scrape off the outer colored part of the peel (a piece of citrus fruit) for use as flavoring.

I was quite pleased with myself for deciding on “zest” as the last word in my A-Z Challenge postings. Until now, that is, when I am tired, hungry, and just about done in! But “zest” or its adjective counterpart “zesty” means taking the best, tastiest part of the fruit (or the person) and adding subtle flavoring to the dish (or human) at hand.

So that’s what we have here at the last night of this year’s A to Z Challenge…efforts to peel the tastiest part of the fruit, and then throw the bitter, tough, white layer away. I would be willing to guess that there is a person in the lives of every one of us who meets that description, and is just waiting for you to celebrate the tasty part of the fruit that is their life.

Who will you be zesting tomorrow?

Y is for “yell”

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According to Merriam-Webster.com, to “yell” is to “1) utter a loud cry, scream, or shout; 2) to give a cheer, usually in unison.”

Tonight I’m ready to yell, “All right, already — enough is enough!” Our country is suffering from too much blaming, complaining, buck-passing, excuse-making, race-baiting, and making assumptions. I think most of us would agree that we can’t legislate morality any more than we can force people to be nice to each other. And grand, sweeping rhetoric will not solve our country’s problems.

But each one of us can start a groundswell of civility by simply being nice to the people we encounter every day. Try smiling instead of snarling. Instead of flipping off the driver who cuts in front of you in traffic, respond with the shaka or “hang loose” gesture of openness and good will. Don’t just complain that your neighbor’s yard isn’t as neat as you might like; help that same neighbor take the trash cans out of the street on trash day. Start small.

Start at home, with your dearest family. Insist that your children speak kindly to each other and do the same with them. Don’t give them space to quarrel with each other…siblings should be important to each other, and be respectful. Teach them to share. At our home we have what we call the “parent tax”. If, for example, we buy a child a candy bar, we can claim a (small) first bite…it is the “tax” for providing the treat, and done in good fun.

If we each start by caring for our own household, then reach out to our neighbors, we really can make a positive impact on our world. Like ripples from a pebble tossed into the pond, our influence will extend father than we can imagine.

Where will you begin?

X is for “xeriscaping”

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When I first created my A-Z Challenge word list for this year, I was at a loss for an “x” word, so I plugged “examine” into the list, in hopes of discovering a better one later. And a couple of days ago, in the midst of the many water war conversations on talk radio, “xeriscaping” jumped out at me. According to Wikipedia, “xeriscaping” is “landscaping or gardening that reduces or eliminates the use of supplemental irrigation”.

And even though one of our most popular talk radio hosts insists on calling it “zeroscaping”, “xeriscaping” is the correct word. The concept is simple (from the Greek) “xeri” is “dry”, and “scaping” basically means “planting”. And in the midst of our ongoing drought conditions, xeriscaping seems to me to be the environmentally and morally appropriate way to garden right now. Obviously some common sense is needed here; don’t use cacti and other spiny plants in high traffic or recreational areas; there is no point (pun accidental, I promise) in putting young children in harm’s way.

Don’t get me wrong — I love lush green grass — but acres and acres of green swale are not only unfashionable, but are a slap in the face to the ordinary, water-conserving citizen gardener. We can still have grass, just in smaller quantities as an accent or an activity space, not stretching green as far as the eye can see. Herb gardens are a wonderful alternative, and once established, will thrive on very little water. The Mediterranean herbs — rosemary, lavendar, thyme, sage, etc. — do well with dry conditions, and they fill the air with wonderful fragrances if you “pet” them as you walk by the garden. My backyard planter now holds zucchini, yellow squash, thyme, rosemary, mint and so on…right next to two types of heirloom tomatoes and a bell pepper. And while I will have to water them briefly every few days, the resulting fresh veggies will be wonderful, and worth the trade-off.

How are you helping to conserve water this summer? Let me know in the comments.

W is for “wonder”

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Dictionary.com defines “wonder” as to “desire or be curious to know something.” That sounds like my permanent state of being!

Tonight I am filled with wonder as to how looting and violence can possibly be an effective response to anything at all. I understand demonstrations; I have even taken part in a few (remember, I’m a child of the 60’s). But never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that robbing and then setting fire to my neighborhood pharmacy would have been any viable solution to my problems.

I am heartsick tonight as I look at pictures and videos of these thugs destroying their city, and I am worried about several of my “imaginary friends” that I have met online, women who call Baltimore and its suburbs home. How does this help? How does this convince police officers that they shouldn’t assume Black men are causing trouble that needs to be met with violence? And what messages did the mayor give when she talked about “giving them space” for violence?

The only bright spot for me in the coverage of this disaster is the video that has gone viral of a mom who spotted her son in the news coverage and proceeded to smack the tar out of him for looting. I found myself cheering her on…all the while feeling such sadness and anger that her actions were necessary.

Tonight my prayers will be for the citizens and first-responders of Baltimore and its surrounding communities, prayers for safety and a quick resolution to the idiocy that has taken hold in their city. I wonder how long it will take for things to return to normal.

Rain and wasted water…an A-Z Challenge “free” post

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It rained here yesterday. Way less than we needed, but enough to keep my vegetables and flowers happy for several days. Just now I went out into the front yard to put out the garbage cans for tomorrow morning’s pickup, and what did I discover? My next-door neighbor’s sprinklers going full-tilt boogie under the shadow of darkness!

Now these neighbors are very sweet people (other than their yappy little dog, that is), and I’m sure our rather “rugged” front yard is a never-ending source of embarrassment for them. But their front (and back) yard is always that deep, rich green that shouts “we don’t worry about water restrictions at all” and by all rights should be an absolute magnet for the water police.

As the drought deepens in California and the State encourages people to “rat out” their offending neighborhood water-wasters, I wonder what will happen to relationships between neighbors. Is a deep green lawn really worth offending your thrifty neighbors who follow the rules? And what will happen when the water-conserving neighbor finally has enough of her water-overusing neighbor? Will there be city police reports, or merely visits from the water police?

Some of us have been cutting back on our water usage for several years now, and our landscaping shows that. I have planted less and less, because water is at a premium and I’m trying to keep it under control. Our city water regulations allow watering twice weekly after 7:00 p.m., which is not only inconvenient, it fosters fungus and other diseases in our gardens. But there are many who either didn’t get the memo regarding limiting their water usage, or they simply don’t care. Either way, our community loses.

V is for “validate”

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Dictionary.com defines “validate” as to “substantiate, confirm, legalize; to give official sanction, confirmation, or approval”.

My contentment while hanging out with the scrapbooking and papercrafting ladies in Exeter today validates the importance of memory keeping in my life and the lives of others. The two sisters on my left were sorting through their parents’ photographs across the past fifty years or so, the friend on my right was finalizing album pages that she had power-laid out ahead of time, and I was making greeting cards. The organizer of the day shared tips and techniques on die-cutting machines, and we all enjoyed hearing about the newest products.

And I had the lovely freedom of spending a Saturday morning scrapbooking, without having to do anything other than show up and bring a little snack to share. It doesn’t get any better than this! (I nearly forgot — it was RAINING as we scrapped!)

What validates you these days?

U is for “understand”

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According to Google.com, “understand” is a verb that means, “perceive the intended meaning of (words, a language, or speaker)” or “infer something from information received”.

Last night I needed to understand what my body and brain were saying to me, which was this: “We are too tired, too scattered, perhaps even too lazy to blog tonight. Not even for the A-Z Challenge!” So for any of you who might have looked for a posting last night and been disappointed or inconvenienced, please accept my apologies. I am making an effort to pay better attention to myself, and sometimes that means setting aside certain things. Thank you for coming back anyway!

T is for “travel”

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According to Dictionary.com, “travel” means “to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip; journey”.

One of the benefits of my Close To My Heart business is that I get to travel to see my customers, to attend corporate trainings, to get away to scrapbooking retreats, and (best of all so far) to the annual Close To My Heart Convention.

Last weekend my up-line Jen and I traveled to Three Rivers to explore the site for our Winter Wonderland Retreat, to be held next January. Next weekend we are headed to Sacramento for an all-day scrapbooking play date with many of our colleagues, and then a Corporate-sponsored Making Connections event that night. There are four of us going together, which will be great fun — and there is sure to be someone who can keep Jen awake on the drive home at the end of a long, busy day.

In July we will turn our wheels towards Disneyland for “Make it From Your Heart”, our 2015 Annual Convention. What can be more fun than spending a week in a room with three other creative women, as well as a thousand or so others, celebrating our successes and being challenged by creative sessions? Would you believe a Caribbean Cruise? One incredibly lucky attendee at “Make it From Your Heart” will be selected to receive a pair of tickets to this year’s incentive trip, an Eastern Caribbean Cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape.

That winner will truly travel in style…and there is absolutely no reason it couldn’t be me!

Where will you be traveling next?

It's official!

It’s official!

S is for “satisfy”

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Dictionary.com defines “satisfy” as “to fulfill the desires, expectations, needs, or demands of (a person, the mind, etc.); to give contentment to” or “to put an end to (a desire, want, need, etc.) by sufficient or ample provision”.

Late this afternoon Georgia told me she was taking the girls down to the river, and invited me to go, too. It being Earth Day and all, it seemed like a good way to finish satisfying our need to get out into nature (Olivia and I had watered the veggie garden earlier this morning). In my mind we would be casually walking down to the river’s edge (I knew there would be no water) and back home again…an easy 15-20 minutes. But Georgia had other ideas.

Georgia and the girls heading north towards the St. John's River, with Grammy (and the camera) trailing along behind.

Georgia and the girls heading north towards the St. John’s River, with Grammy (and the camera) trailing along behind.

When we got within shouting distance of the St. John’s River, Georgia took off across the street and down the path along the river. A sign posted just inside the pathway indicated that it was “1.6 miles from MacAuliffe Street to Ben Maddox Way” along the riverwalk. And we were already several blocks from home. Walking along side the river gave us a much better sense of just how dry it truly was.

There was no water at all.  None.

There was no water at all. None.

It wasn’t too long before Olivia’s short legs started getting tired, but she continued hopping and skipping between complaints. Her mom carried her a little ways as a refresher, but put her down again, letting her know there was a park up ahead. (And my heart sank a bit, as I knew how far away that park was.) There was a steady stream of walkers, bicyclists, and skaters all along the way, as well as an idiot zipping along on a quad with two little girls hanging onto the back and a toddler sitting in his lap.

We finally made it to the park, and the girls immediately made friends with a little boy playing on the teeter-totter. They enjoyed the slide, swings, and a funny zipline contraption until we realized how soon the sun would be setting and gathered them up for the return home.

We followed the St. John’s River Parkway back home, cutting through the high school and shortening the return trip significantly. We stopped to smell honeysuckle vines and roses along the way, and Olivia shared some ideas about how people throw down their trash in places they think are dead, even though there are bugs and plants there that deserve a clean home. Mom came to Olivia’s rescue with a short piggyback ride, just enough to freshen her legs to finish the walk.

Piggybacking on Mom.

Piggybacking on Mom.

Once we got onto the school grounds (with a good sidewalk), Olivia got rid of her shoes and went the rest of the way barefoot. It was fun to see the school from a different viewpoint; we drive by the front side several times a day, but always focused on where we are going…this walk took us past the ball fields, the swimming pool, and the stadium before we re-entered the neighborhood.

We could not have had more perfect weather for our Earth Day walk, nor more wonderful walking companions. It not only satisfied our need to get outside together for a little while, but gave us a relaxing time to visit with each other, away from the washing machine and other waiting chores.

I hope your Earth Day was filled with clean air and good companions, too.

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