Time for an April Fool’s Snowstorm

Sorry. I’ve missed you. I took some time off from blogging to have some quiet time.Zen frog 2

I spent my quiet time being quiet, in the garden and in the greenhouse mostly, meditating and resting.

Also, I was on a treasure hunt for the cause of some weird health issues. The whole thing is not completely sorted out, but I’m on the mend after months of doctor visits and blood tests that left me looking like a boxer who punches solely with her inner elbows.

Also, I worked very hard at work, because I love it so much. When asked to take on an overload, I can’t resist and won’t say no. I know am blessed to feel this way.

Also, I wrote a series of nonfiction children’s books on the U.S. military, which I found to be challenging because military information is, by nature, classified and top secret. I learned some kind of gross things that didn’t make the final edits, but I can’t un-know them and they’re really fun and gross, trust me.

Okay, I see it now. My quiet time was not all that quiet, but it was quiet enough for me.

Now I’m back. I supposed there’s no better time celebrate the noise and chaos of a busy life than right before an April Fool’s snowstorm.

Elsie and Nick April snowstorm 2

This picture is from the last time we had an April Fool’s snowstorm. Elsie is a college graduate now and Nick is in his junior year at UConn. May it be that long before we have another one.

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Happy Anniversary, Garden of Envy!

It’s been a year since I celebrated Father’s Day by going off by myself and enjoying a local garden tour.

BLOG GT roses at Jackie Marro's I want them

I saw things that filled me with envy: strawberry patches, flower beds, climbing roses, sun-dappled frog ponds. I wanted them all, and I’m pleased to say that following a year of dirty, itchy, back-breaking work, I now have them, but they come with a price.

The strawberry patch has brought with it a game of drama and suspense. The strawberries are delicious—when I’m allowed to eat them. The chipmunks swoop in and grab them just before I decide they’re ripe enough to pick. So far owl decoys have not worked. I’m thinking of installing a motion sensor security alarm.

160619_strawberry pink                     160619_strawberry red

 

160619_coneflowers2I love the flower beds. Love them. But they’re new, so they’re not yet yielding anything I’m willing to cut. In fact, I wonder if they’ll ever yield anything I’ll be willing to cut. I planted those seeds, watered them, nurtured them, talked to them (yes, I do this constantly; do with that information what you will) and I can’t imaging going at them with a scissors. So much for fresh cut flowers in the house. You can only see them if you go down the hill in my back yard and sit among them on the bench next to this little fairy.

160619_fairy      160619_honeysuckle

Oh, and the climbing roses. I wanted them so much. I’m so happy to finally have them. 160619_roseskyHere’s the thing though, they attract caterpillars. Caterpillars turn me into a barbarian.

Never before have I gone after a species with such violence. I step on them indiscriminately. I squeeze them with my bare hands. None are spared. I’ll take my life in my hands and climb to the top rung of the ladder to squish one single caterpillar. One. No leaf is worth sacrificing, and no caterpillar will be left behind. I look in the mirror after a killing spree and think, “Who am I?”

16MaygardendayfrogThe frog ponds are the best.

They started out as vernal pools. They were always there, filling up in the spring and emptying in the fall; I just never paid them much attention. Now that I’ve cleared paths around them and created places to sit, I see that they are frog ponds. Frog ponds!

The music is majestic. Come sundown in my back yard, you’ll hear the birds, crickets, and frogs all singing together. It’s gorgeous, and worth every thorn, poison ivy rash, and muscle sprain.

I’ve spent a year creating the Garden of Envy. Now it’s time to sit and enjoy it.

Favorite Scenes: “Throwaways”

It’s that time of year again.

Time to thin the carrots and the beets. 16Maygardendaybeets

I hate doing it. It’s so hard to decide who goes! And yes, I gave the tiny seedlings a personal pronoun because by this point, I’ve grown so attached to them that they feel sort of people-ish to me.

I planted them months ago, watered them, and spent mental energy hoping they’d germinate, sprout, grow, and thrive despite bugs, temperature fluctuations, and my own inability to figure out if they’ve been watered or over-watered.

b carrots and beetsI know if I’m brave and determined about it, they will one day look like this, but by the time they’re big enough to cull, I’ve invested too much time to be carefree about ripping some of them out.

Every year, this process reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Tending to Grace. In it, the pragmatic Agatha thins her carrots without a second thought, but the rejected and abandoned Cornelia has a strong reaction: “I look at her throwaways and I see myself.”

I’m not the only one who loves this scene. I’ve taught Tending to Grace a number of times to high school students and even in a college-level ESL class. This scene elicits strong reactions from readers who know what it feels like to be left behind or tossed away.

Kim posted some of my students’ written responses to this scene and others in the novel in a blog post. There are many places in the story where readers feel a connection to Cornelia and her struggle for love and acceptance.

People need to connect, to make eye contact, to be called by name, to be seen, heard, understood, accepted, and cherished. Tending to Grace explores those basic human needs and the ways we can fulfill them for one another.

As I head out to do the dirty but necessary deed, I’ll think of the people who made me feel included, loved, and cherished, and I will consider ways that I can care for and be more careful of others.

Beet and carrot seedlings (with much prevaricating on my part!) can be discarded. A person cannot.

Garden 2014 036

 

Favorite Scenes: Cringing over Cake

Cringe scenes are the best.

They grab me and bring me right into the world of fiction and make me imagine, believe even, that I can help. Take this one, for example, from Little Women:

Younger Amy March: [Jo is curling Meg’s hair] What’s that smell? Like burnt feathers.

Jo: Aaahh!

Meg: You’ve ruined me!

When I read this scene for the first time, I imagined traveling back in time to save the day. Maybe I’d warn the daydreaming Jo to pay attention with the curling iron? Maybe I’d offer Meg a pretty bonnet to hide the damage? Who knows? The fact is that I dripped with compassion for poor Meg, and I would have done anything to fix the terrible cringe-worthy moment.

Oh, life would be so much better if we could all be polished, lovely, and mistake-free all the time.

But where is the conflict in that?

The best cringe scene I read recently is in Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree.

Fish in a Tree is a fairly new book, just out last year, so I don’t want to spoil it. But, oh, I must!

Without giving away too many details, let me tell you this: there is a lunchroom scene flashback that explains the hostility between Ally and Shay. Ally tells the story in a raw, honest, vulnerable voice that makes you want to reach into the pages and hug her. I was crying and laughing as I read it.

Ally and Shay’s relationship is not a boring, old, cliché between a bully and a bullee; no, they’ve come by their animosity toward one another honestly, in the most deliciously cringe-worthy scene I’ve read in a long time.

It’s fabulous. How could it not be? It involves cake. It trumps even the opening scene when Ally gives a less-than-appropriate card to her teacher. Come to think of it, Ally suffers more cringe-worthy moments than I think I could bear, and that’s saying a lot, considering when I was in 7th grade, I looked like this:

BLOG Kristin jr high

Readers will want to hug Ally and to find a way to make her path in life easier, and they will also want to shake and tell her to get a clue. Either way, they will be drawn to walk her conflict-fraught path with her, and that’s what makes her character so magnetic and Fish in a Tree so impossible to put down.

Go read it and have yourself a good laugh, cry, and cringe.

Favorite Scenes: Puffed Sleeves

There are so many wonderful scenes in the world of books, but one of my favorites includes the darling Anne of Green Gables and her yearning for a dress with puffed sleeves.

I read Anne of Green Gables when I was twelve at a time when I could most relate to wanting to be like the other kids. With my stunningly bad perm and gorgeous buck teeth, I always felt somehow that I came up short. But if Anne could find a way to fit in, maybe, just maybe, so could I.

Puff sleeves marilla“Puffed sleeves, Marilla,” Anne says dreamily in the scene when the dress she had always wanted materializes, thanks to Matthew, in her midst. I was so happy for Anne, who finally, finally gets something nice. Something that will make her feel pretty, like she belongs, like she’s as good as the other children even though she’s an orphan with red hair and freckles.

Oh, it’s a beautiful scene, but it only works because of the one a few chapters before it, when we learn about Anne’s yearning.

In it, Anne marches like a trooper to Sunday School all by herself. Until then, she is able to Sunday School dressimagine that at least one of the clean, neat, serviceable dresses that Marilla has made for her has puffed sleeves, but when confronted with the nine other girls in her class who actually have puffed sleeves, her powers of imagination fail her.

 

While Marilla thinks she is overreacting, I am utterly in agreement Anne’s feeling that “life was not really worth living without puffed sleeves.”

When Marilla chides her for indulging in her own vanity, Anne’s take on the situation is brilliant. “I would rather look ridiculous when everyone else does than plain and sensible all by myself.”

Oh, Anne, you deep-thinker, this phrase explains so much about humanity.  And also about me.

What are some of your favorite literary scenes? Please share in the comments. 🙂

 

The Smiles Returning to their Faces

My last post was a bit whiny and featured a promise to move more, to be more healthy and such.

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve moved all sorts of things, including numerous backyard stones, which I’m afraid has angered the garden gnomes or the stone gods or Mother Nature or whoever is in charge of the sun, because it’s been pouring for days.

I think it’s adorable that the cold and rain thinks they’re going to keep me indoors now that the calendar says spring is here, because . . . no.

I’ve been out in the sopping wet digging and shoveling and planting and mulching through it all. No, I will not post a picture of myself. I look ridiculous. I will say this: it’s a good thing I haven’t bothered with a manicure this year, because it wouldn’t stand a chance.

Since March, we’ve built a strawberry patch and an herb garden and two new flower beds. As I mentioned, it’s pouring rain out at the moment, so any pictures I could share of our endeavors would be sad and dreary. Instead, I’ll share these:

B morning glories

These morning glories from last year could be glorious once again, if only the sun would come out.

BLOG garden cherry tomatoes red

Sun-kissed cherry tomatoes from last year. Just add sun.

B rosebud

I don’t care what anyone says, a rose by any other name isn’t as nice without the sun.

Garden sunflower Sept 2015A sunflower brought to you by the power of the sun.

You just wait. The sun is on its way. And when it gets here, there will be more pretty things like these. It seems like years since they’ve been here.

The Curse of the Broken Tailbone: A 2016 New Year’s Resolution

More than 22 years ago after my first child was born, I visited a Kristin and Elsie June 1993chiropractor, thinking the whole labor and delivery thing had done something wonky to my back. The doctor took a few X-rays, reviewed them, and then had this to say:

“Did you know you that broke your coccyx and that it healed at a 90 degree angle?”

No, I did not know this, though I could well remember a certain painful fall while I was playing soccer that was likely responsible for this invisible disfigurement. Oh well, it’s not like I could travel back in time and put my tailbone in a cast. Best to move forward.

“Also, do you know that you have scoliosis?” he added. No, I did not know this, either. He assured me that it wasn’t a serious case, but he cheerfully predicted that it would get worse as I got older. He also promised that if I returned to see him for regular adjustments, he could do exactly nothing to help me with either of these two conditions, and so, I took him at his word, and since the baby kept me pretty busy anyway, I did not return.

Now, as 2015 winds down, I am trying to get a head start on my 2016 New Year’s resolutions, and I think maybe one of them should be about my back. After all these years, there’s nothing really wrong with it that putting the seat back while I’m driving can’t fix, but as the saying goes, “Nothin’ ain’t wrong, but somethin’ ain’t right.”

Before I knew I had scoliosis and an oddly shaped tailbone, I was very flexible and could do things like handstands and backbends. Then, after having more babies and working long hours to support them, I discovered the benefits of sitting down and resting for long periods of time. While this has improved my quality of life immeasurably, it has done nothing for my poor, sad, little back.

So this year, I plan to sit (slightly) less often and move around and bend (just a little bit) more often, not so much as to diminish the magical quality of life I’ve achieved through persistent, excessive resting, but enough to keep me from looking and feeling like Quasimodo.

Please wish me luck with my New Year’s Resolution, and I wish you the very best for success with yours.

B blue rocking chairs
I know that I should move around and exercise more. It’s just that I so love to sit.
A place to sit
Sitting is lovelier, more restful, and let’s face it, much, much easier than not sitting. In fact, I highly recommend it.
B break room
You can’t blame me, can you?
BLOG GT blue vignette I want it
Oh, it’s a tough path I’ve chosen, indeed, to move more and sit less in 2016.
BLOG GT Japanese maple at Alyce Pedder's
You will sit by me and offer encouragement, won’t you? Oh wait, no . . .

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!