Thursday, April 26, 2012

Finding the Pretty

I love pretty flower gardens, but I don't have the landscaper's aesthetic eye to make a dream garden....or even close.   My flower's exist because I got tired of planting annuals and started buying some perennials here and there - never with much of a plan in mind.  Just whatever I ran across at garden centers that caught my fancy at the time.  It has been hit or miss - mostly misses, but every year they just keep coming back - just luck, not skill.

I trimmed my Knock-out roses way back this year, and I keep trimming them as new growth pops up to try to keep them under control.  These will grow ten feet high if I let them - last year they did and totally took over my flower bed near the end of the driveway.  I gave a little Spring tour, but now that the lush green of late Spring has arrived, I thought I would post more.  I love it when my blogger friends post pictures of their gardens.  The first six photos are what I call my Rock Garden - simply because there's a huge rock in the middle and we put creek rocks as a border.  This sits near the road at the end of our driveway.  It's got all sorts of flowers that bloom from Spring to early Fall.  It has tulips, Knock-out roses, blue salvia, day lillies, asiatic lillies, amaryllis, and canna lillies.

 As you come up into my driveway, you'll see the next few things.
This old cart has a few little annuals and a clump of mums that never die - no matter how hard you may try to kill them.

Looking up toward the house and front yard from driveway.  The center is a Burning Bush which turns a spectacular red in the Fall.  There's a very tall Holly to the left of it and a dogwood to the right.

This is the Neglected Garden.  It's pretty when I do a little hard labor on it in the Spring - which I haven't done yet.  That's where my big Snowball bush is - which has quit blooming for now.
Walking round the bend of the driveway before you make the turn toward our house, you'll see honeysuckles growing up on an old walnut tree.  The grandkids love to drink the nectar from the honeysuckles.  Such a sweet tiny drop of flavor from each bloom. That's our old Chicken house / storage building in the background along with hubby's little pond boat draped in blue.

A little vintage iron table I painted with lots of flower pots of odds and ends.  It's in the little flower garden at the front of our house.

Another rose bush at the front of the house with an old rusty well pump in the background.

A peek at the backyard.

I separated these Amaryllis this past winter and they came up prettier than ever.

A large pot with my Wave Petunias just beginning to grow

A peek on the other side of the house where Wild Things grow.

A little wild area of Ivy, Hostas and Indian Hawthorne circling a dogwood tree.

Another peek in the backyard that needs some attention.
It's a big yard and takes a good bit of maintenance, but each year I love to see it spring to life with lush green growing everywhere.  But no matter how much of a hit or miss  ~  no matter how mumble - jumble gardens (and life) can be, you can always find the pretty.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Sad One ~ Stories from the Waiting Room ~ Part 4

I've waited a couple of weeks to write about The Sad One.  Just trying to get a grasp on her story had created a writer's block of sorts, not only on her story, but on nearly everything I've tried to write since.  If you're reading my blog for the first time, you can catch up on the original post here ~ and on parts 1, 2 and 3 by clicking here, here and here.

I'll call her the Sad One, because she was the only one in the waiting room that didn't share her first name.  She was there when we walked in ~ facing the doorway with book in hand.  I would guess her to be in her early to mid-fifties even though she looked younger.  She was blonde and had one of those perpetually youthful faces with good bone structure and chubby cheeks - a Sally Fields kind of look you could say.  Her hair was medium length with slight curls and long bangs which were pulled back from her forehead with a clip.  We made eye contact briefly, but she quickly looked down at her book.

As the rest of us were chatting amicably, she made a great show of reading her book.  Of course, the conversation flow was hampered by her location near the doorway, but I felt sure she wouldn't have joined in anyway.  She was reading her book but not reading her book if you know what I mean.  She may have turned three pages the whole hour and a half we were there.  She would examine her hands and fingers and then bite her finger like I'm prone to do when I'm nervous.  Every time there was any activity near the door, she would look up anxiously.  The only time she seemed to pay any attention to us was when the conversation turned to religion and prayers which Lillian and the Ethereal, Mystical Margaret brought up and the rest of us joined in.

Finally a doctor came to the door and motioned for her.  He was alone.  This was different ~ the others were motioned to the door by nurses with the patient in a wheel chair looking a little worse for the wear but ready to go home.  There was no wheelchair with the doctor.  She was gone for several minutes, then walked back in the waiting room and took her chair.  She was wiping away tears which no-one else seemed to noticed.  I caught her eye, and quietly said "Are you okay?"  She looked as if she was going to say something, but hesitated and said softly, "I'm okay."  I knew she wasn't.

A few minutes later, I got up to go get Lillian some coffee which she had been hinting for an hour for her granddaughter to do.  I walked out into the hallway and the Sad One followed me.  I waited for her to catch up thinking maybe she was going for coffee too.  We stood there looking at each other. "Do you pray?" she asked.   I told her that I did.  "Will you pray for my husband"?   I was thinking, "Oh Lord, why is she asking me, the one who sometimes doesn't feel like my prayers are being answered because I'm not always Your good and faithful servant?  Why didn't she ask Lillian or Margaret?"

"What's his name"? I said.  "Randy".  I stood there holding both her hands right out in that hospital hallway and things started flowing out of my mouth that I didn't know were there.  It wasn't a fancy prayer, but it was a heartfelt one and I know He heard it.  "Thank you", she said and walked back in the waiting room.  As I walked numbly down the hallway on the way to the cafeteria, I cried.  I'm sure people were wondering what had happened to me.  If they only knew.

She was still there when I came back in and she smiled.  She was still there when the nurse came in wheeling my hubby who was ready to go home.  She said goodbye.   She hadn't shared what was wrong with Randy and I didn't ask.  Some things are better left unsaid.  I was glad she reached out to someone.  It's hard to face bad news alone.  I've wondered how long she had to stay there and what thoughts were filling her head.  I've said many a prayer for Randy since. 

And if you're a believer and you pray, lift one up for Randy and his pretty, blonde, Sally Fields looking wife.  I think they need them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I should blog

I should blog ~  really, I should.  I have so many things in my head to say but can't seem to put them down.  Have you ever hit a brick wall and just can't put anything on paper?  Well, that's where I am this week.

I'll pick myself up, dust myself off and come out swinging.....maybe, next week.  Meanwhile, I'll catch up on reading your blogs.  Really, I will.    So far, I've toured Diane's beautiful English counryside garden on a Vlog tour on facebook, read Jane's blog about grey hair in London, and read about Mike's grumpy old man attitude this afternoon.  I've also read All Things Farmer's recipe for Strawberry milkshakes and vanilla bean shakes( he calls them creme' de somethings).  I visited a tablescape in Switzerland on Susan's Between Naps on the Front Porch blog.  I've been to a Soba restaurant with Miyako (Orchid's Voice)  in Japan and tried their Miso dengaku (sweet simmered miso).  Quite delicious or so it looked.

So you can see I've been busy traveling all over the world experiencing all sorts of new things with my blogger friends.   But I'll be back and tell my mundane tales once again....maybe next week.  Meanwhile follow the links above to read some writing well worth reading.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Living with a terrorist....a true tale of fear and intimidation

Little did we know when he came to our door, that our lives would soon be owned by him. Sure, there were signs - scruffy unkempt look, wild eyes, furtive mannerisms. But he was hungry and homeless - what could we do? We had a few arguments about what to do about him. "Let him go somewhere else", Henry said, "We don't have room for him, we're gone a lot, and heaven knows what he'll do in our house while we're gone".

"But he came to OUR door", I said. "There must be a reason and after all it's the Christian thing to do". I reminded him that when Jesus is asked in Matthew 25 who will get into heaven, Jesus told them, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in."

So we let him into our home. He finally had enough food to eat, and boy, was he ravenous. He had a roof over his head and warm bed to sleep in and it seemed he slept for days on end - only coming in to the kitchen for food and drink. When his belly was full and his sleep caught up, he tried to prove his worth by doing little things around the house. He was very good at pest control and toilet bowl cleaning although I often had to go behind him on the latter.

He didn't speak our language so it was hard to know his thoughts. At first he didn't talk much, but with time he found his voice. That's when things started to go wrong. He was starting to feel confident that we were not going to throw him out. He developed a snarly attitude. He demanded more food and wanted his own bathroom. He began to be picky about his food, so I would have to buy specialty food for him. He developed a taste for the finer foods like smoked salmon and filet mignon and he wanted them EVERY day - not just on special occasions as we were accustomed to.

He commandeered his own chair and dared anyone else to sit in it. Henry sat there once, unaware of his obsession with that chair, and he slapped him....hard. And big, bad Henry didn't do a thing about it except get up out of the chair and let him have it. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Henry never took any flak off of anybody and here he was, giving in to this stranger we had let in to our home.

As time went by, he began to get fatter and lazier and no longer worked for his room and board. He would have moments of kindness and even began to show a bit of affection towards us, but it would be short lived and he would become a madman again.

Who was this crazy stranger? His name is Theo. Today, he is exhibiting his best behavior. But any minute now he could snap. Every time he goes out and comes back in, I expect him to have a suicide bomb attached to his body. He walks in the door, like a policeman would walk into each room searching for a suspect. He steps up to each door frame, pauses, looks around the corner and then satisfied that there's no one waiting to gun him down, he'll walk on into the room.

It's been very hard to take photos of him since he's been living with us -I have to furtively take one when he doesn't realize what I'm doing. Sometimes he tries to grab hold of the strap of the camera and destroy it. But here are a few I have managed to capture unbeknownst to him:

The first day he appeared at our door.  Note the scruffy, wild eyed look about him.  That should have been a warning sign.
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At Christmas, stealing the decorations off my tree.  Here, he's terrorizing the elf.

Here, he's sitting on my lap, preventing me from using the computer.  He thinks I'm reporting him to Homeland Security, so he confiscated the mouse.
And above, he's looking all innocent like.  But you can still see those crazy eyes and the smug look on his face.

Each morning when he greets me after being locked in the laundry room all night, he demands more food.  I'll start off giving him dry which he nibbles on.  Then he'll come back to the breakfast table as I'm having my first cup of coffee and try to sweetly coerce me to come back to his food bowl.  He'll walk back to his dry food trying to lead me.  If I don't immediately get up, he starts bristling up and batting my legs with his paws, letting out the claws just to show me he can.  I don't know how far he'll go if he really gets mad, so I jump up and get him a can of Friskie's finest.  He is now appeased and good naturedly gets up on my lap.

It's tough living with a terrorist.  I'm resigned to keeping him, but if Homeland Security ever comes knocking on my door, I'll say, "Welcome in - he's hiding in the closet".

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Vietnam Casualty - The Waiting Room, Part 3

In order to have a colonoscopy procedure done at the Veteran's hospital, the person you brought with you has to sign a form that they will drive you home. If you don't bring anyone with you, you're out of there and have to reschedule. Wouldn't it be awful to go through all that prep work and then have them cancel it?

Bobby was sixty-seven and had fought in the Vietnam Conflict. You know - the war they didn't call a war. His daughter and granddaughter were with him - the granddaughter was the designated driver. The waiting room was full except for one seat near the door which Bobby took and the other two had to stand in the crowded little room. It wasn't long before two people left and the seats beside me were empty. Their names were Jan and Melissa - Jan being Bobby's daughter. Jan rambled around in her purse and brought out a peppermint candy. She peeled the wrapper and walked over and gave it to her Dad. He had no more than got it into his mouth when the eagle eyed receptionist saw what she had done and said, "Sir, you can't have that candy" and began to explain that candy turns into liquid, blah, blah, blah. Bobby looked like he was going to cry. "Wish I was sitting over there", he said, meaning the seat far away from the receptionist. We all laughed.

Jan was bewildered. "What's wrong with a piece of candy", she said. I explained that since they couldn't have anything after midnight, even candy was off limits since it was a liquid. "I thought it meant no more jello or broth after midnight", she said. "No, the instructions say no food or liquid after midnight." Her mouth fell open and her eyes darted in every direction. "Uh-oh, he drank a few swigs of bottled water on the way here this morning". "You should tell the receptionist", I said. "No way", she said. "I would never get him to go through the prep again". I understood completely.

She and her Dad were talking and I noticed that she was filling in things that he couldn't remember. By this time, he had moved to a vacated seat beside her. He was talking about his late wife and was confused about what year she had died. His wife had died four years earlier at the age of sixty. She had been in the midst of re-decorating her bedroom when she became tired and laid down for an afternoon nap. She never woke up - it was a heart attack.

Bobby had been injured in Vietnam. He had just jumped out of a helicopter when it dipped back down and hit him in the head. He was in a coma for several weeks. He had fully recovered and had headaches often, but no other complications. Two years ago, he had started showing signs of dementia and was now to the point where he was going to have to move in with her. She wondered if it could be due to the old head injury. "Anything's possible", I said. "Talk to a VA advocate who will tell you what steps you need to take. If so, maybe he could get some sort of compensation so that you could get some daycare for him while you work". Jan was thirty-seven and was a teacher for Exceptional Students. She was still grieving over the loss of her mother and having to become caretaker to her father much too young.

Conflict or war - no matter what it was called, it was a tragic time for our servicemen. They came home to a public that didn't support what they had done for their country. Heck, even they themselves didn't know what they had done for their country or what they were fighting for. It seemed such a senseless war and so many lives were changed or lost. I am grateful to each and every serviceman who has fought or is now fighting to preserve our freedom. May the Lord bless them and keep them.

I'm amazed at what you can learn in a waiting room by just lending a listening ear and showing compassion. It's much more interesting than being a "waiting room snob" as I once was.

Stay tuned in the next few days for Part Four - The Sad One.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Ethereal, Mystical Margaret

After writing my "Stories in the Waiting Room" post yesterday, I intended to write today about the woman pretending to read a book who looked anxious and sad.  But I've decided I'm going to save "Sad" for last.

There was another lady in the waiting room dressed to the nines - designer purse, killer high heeled shoes, silk scarf, and flawless makeup.  She was attempting to be a Waiting Room Snob, but Lillian pulled her out of it.  I think Lillian was the life of the party when she was younger and she still had a zest for living like no-one I've ever seen.

Margaret was her name but no-one asked how old she was.  Now, when a stranger asks me my age, I usually have a little fun with it.  I definitely look my age - there's no getting around it.  Sometimes I'll fib a little and tell them that I'm ten years older than I really am.  They'll look shocked and say something like, "No Way - you really look much younger".  It's much more fun than telling the truth and having them look skeptical and thinking, "She's lying - I know she's older than that".

But with Margaret, it was very hard to tell.  Black women grow older much more gracefully than women of other races.   Margaret was beautiful and had the grace and elegance of royalty.  She was thin and had high cheekbones with just the right amount of blush / rouge.  Her skin was a beautiful rich chocolate.  Her eyebrows were arched perfectly and she had a short, trendy hairstyle.  She was very friendly and sweet once Lillian broke the ice.  She reminded me of myself, listening, asking polite questions, but never revealing anything about herself.  She appeared ethereal and mystical which made me want to know much more than she was willing to reveal.  If I were going to write about her, I would have to invent my own stories.  But I won't.  Mystical and ethereal people are hard to read - I wouldn't get it right.  It's much more intriguing to leave it at that.  You can all use your own imaginations.

It would be a fun challenge for all my writer friends out there.  Write a story about Margaret and link it back to my post.  Who was she waiting for?  I never saw him.  How old was she?  Somewhere between forty and sixty.  I know that's a wide range - she looked young but something about her told me she was older than she looks.  Who is Margaret?  I have to admit, I don't know.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stories from the Waiting Room

In my post yesterday, I wrote about my tendencies to avoid conversations when I'm around strangers, especially in waiting rooms in doctor's offices.  There's other places too, like shopping malls and grocery stores.  Not only have I felt that I'm giving up my privacy but I'm intruding on the privacy of others.  My husband will see someone in the aisle of a grocery store buying a product and he'll begin a conversation with them telling them whether he likes that product or not.  I just walk on down the aisle and pretend I'm not with him.  Recently he did that to a lady from the retirement community nearby and she told him she had never had so many complete strangers talk to her until she moved down South.  She said it in a "bug off" kind of way, but he didn't seem to notice.

Because of an experience last year in the dentist's office, I've realized that sometimes you can't avoid conversations without appearing rude, and you may as well just talk back.  Now I wouldn't go back to my old ways - no siree!   It's a great way to get writing material.

If you didn't read my post yesterday, I was in the VA hospital waiting for my hubby to have his colonoscopy procedure.  Hubby had just gone back to the procedure room when an elderly couple came in with their granddaughter in tow.  She was their designated driver and looked to be in her early thirties.  Age is a touchy subject - some don't mind telling and others do and I've learned by appearance who to ask and who not.   If they're over sixty and wear a lot of makeup, have a scarf around their neck to hide the neck wrinkles, have lots of jewelry and aloof mannerisms, don't ask.  That could be me on some days.   If they look grandmotherly and smile a lot, feel free to ask.  That could be me on other days.   Walter, Lillian and Kelly were their names.  Walter was seventy-seven,  Lillian seventy-five and smiled and spoke to everyone in the waiting room.  They had been married fifty-eight years.  Long enough to finish each others sentences.  He would start talking and then pause, waiting for her to finish....and she did. They seemed to know each others thoughts.  Not only were their thoughts in unison, so were their feet.

Have you ever seen someone cross one leg over the other and roll their feet round in circles.  They had opposite legs crossed so their toes were pointing toward each other.  They were in perfect unison as they circled their feet - when he stopped, so did she - then they would start over again.  It was very amusing.   After her husband went back, she kept hinting for her granddaughter to go get her a cup of coffee, but she was engrossed in a book.  I quietly got up, went downstairs to the canteen and got both of us a cup.  She was thrilled but I told her I had needed one too....and it was true.

Lillian wanted everyone to know what a good catch she had in Walter.  "He sweeps, vacuums and makes the bed every days" she said.  "You shouldn't tell us that", I said.  "We'll be all trying to steal your husband".  She beamed.  "I won't let him get away", she said and laughed.

The room filled up quickly.  The others who came in joined in the conversation.  Each person had a story to tell except one.  She was mid-fifties and sat alone pretending to read her book.  She looked anxious - maybe the way I once looked when I played the part of a hermit.  Her story is tomorrow.  I think it's sad.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Love ..... In Unexpected Places

The Gastroenterology waiting room was full ..... full of wives, daughters and granddaughters brought along as chauffeurs to drive the husbands, fathers and grandfathers who after having been cleansed and purged were in the clinical rooms having the dreaded colonoscopy procedure performed.  There was a camaraderie amongst these women, especially the wives.  We all had something in common.  We had sacrificed and shared a small part of our husbands to go out and protect and fight for all Americans.  There was an undercurrent feeling of pride, love and respect for our veterans that trickled down to the children and grown grandchildren in the room.  We were in a good place - a place that now takes care of the men and women who have taken care of the rest of us.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about conversations in waiting rooms that you can see at this link.  Until that time, I had been somewhat of a waiting room snob, wanting my privacy so I could write notes or read a magazine and be in my own little world.  That waiting room experience changed all that.  Now I take my magazines and notebooks along, but I only use them as conversation starters.  I discovered that you can't write about life if you're not giving yourself the opportunity to experience the complexities of other people's lives.  My life stories are boring so it's hard to pull imaginative writing out of thin air and make it interesting, but conversations with total strangers can send my fingers flying over my keyboard with enthusiasm and creativity.   My book gets a boost of energy instead of laying flat and stale in a drawer beside my bed.

Tomorrow, I'll share tidbits from the "chauffeurs" - the women who were waiting to take home their veterans.   I loved their stories.