Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm Channeling Louis Armstrong

Back when I was in grade school, my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Francis, told us that some day we would be able to talk with people halfway around the world, and that we would SEE THEM AT THE SAME TIME.

I didn't believe her.

At the time my family lived on a party line, which for all you young'uns out there, meant we shared a phone line with six other families who also lived along our creek. If the phone rang a long and two shorts, someone was calling  us and we could answer it. If any other combination of rings sounded, the call wasn't for us and good manners dictated that we pretend we didn't hear anything. If we picked up the phone, we could eavesdrop on other people's conversations, but in our house that was Not Done.  Not all of our neighbors followed this party line etiquette (I'm looking at you, Bertha Gates) and we learned to be discreet in our phone dealings.

Last night I bought a $32 gizmo to attach to my old laptop. I plugged it into the port on the side of the computer, and a few minutes later, I was face-to-face with the girl whose room I had shared when I lived in Costa Rica. Rosa-Emilia and I have communicated on Facebook, and I've seen pictures of her and her family, but we haven't actually talked for at least a decade.

Quite honestly, I had been nervous when Rosa-Emilia suggested we set up a Skype conversation. In my mind she was still 22, a gorgeous wisp of a girl with blue-black hair. Intellectually I knew she had two grown children, and that everyone gets older. She probably still had a mental picture of me as a blonde, tanned, 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer--would I disappoint her?

But then the computer chime sounded, and I clicked the button to answer the call. There was Rosita, gorgeous as ever. She was older and no longer a wisp, but the real Rosa-Emilia hadn't changed. She still punctuates her conversation with extravagant hand gestures, and her beautiful eyes are just as kind. 

I realized then how much I had missed this kind of face-to-face interaction. The slow-ish computer connection and my rusty Spanish didn't slow down a conversation that caught us up on family gossip and reminded me again how much her giggle made me laugh.

After half an hour my mind was tired, jammed with verb conjugations I haven't used in 30 years. We signed off with promises that we'll talk again, soon, and that the next conversation will include her parents.

Mrs. Francis, you were right. Next, I suppose, will be time travel.

What a wonderful world.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Write This With Fear and Trepidation

I'm diving into today's subject with an unusual amount of hesitation, not because I am afraid I might accidentally embarrass Husband or the Boys (as opposed to embarrassing them on purpose, which is my usual mode). No, today I will be stepping over a line into a topic that's conversationally taboo among many of my best friends.

The label on that line is health insurance.

I stayed home with the Boys for 10 years, and loved working full-time in this non-salaried position. When Husband left his teaching position to establish his own practice I was asked to apply for the job I currently have. A major reason, if not THE reason, I did apply and ultimately moved into the salaried ranks was because a new accounting practice does not come with built-in benefits.

If you have Boys, health insurance is not a luxury.

A few weeks ago we received the preliminary hospital bill for Boy#4's wild ride. The ambulance charge was $990+. The charge for six hours in the hospital emergency room was $10,077.47.

Yesterday's mail brought notice of the medical insurance settlement. Our cost after insurance? $100.

This set off a fresh round of thankfulness--that Four is fine, that he received excellent and compassionate care, that God, as always, was providing.

But it also set off a moment of reflection. We will write out a check for $100 and put the incident behind us. In fact, it cost more to fix Four's bike than to pay his medical bills. But what about people who don't have insurance? What impact would this ultimately minor incident have had on their lives?

For the thousands of parents who are paid minimum wage, this would have been the equivalent of a full year of paychecks.

Boy#3 had a rough start in life. He was hospitalized twice before his first birthday with mysterious symptoms, and when our wonderful pediatrician finally made the House-like diagnosis of his medical issue, the next stop was a pediatric cardiologist. She reviewed his charts, then looked up from my smiling baby to me.

"Don't ever lose your job," she told me gravely. "This child is uninsurable."

No matter what your political persuasion, no matter how scornful we are of Obamacare, no parent should ever hear those words.

We're a better nation than that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How You Know A Mom Doesn't Live There

This is my refrigerator. Visible at a cursory glance are two kinds of green salad, low-fat yogurt, tortillas, sliced mushrooms, deli meat, red pepper, and cold chicken.

This is the refrigerator in the apartment of Boy#1 and Boy#2. It contains Gatorade, bottled water, and (if you look closely) the refrigerator's operating instructions.*

But you'll find an even better indication of appliance ownership looking at the freezer doors. On my refrigerator you'll see nostalgic notes, class pictures from when my Boys were preschoolers, and magnets that have been pulled out of Christmas stockings over the years.

Holding up the receipts on the Boys' refrigerator?

Axis of Evil finger puppets.

Of course.

*In fairness, this picture was taken the week they moved into the apartment. But after checking the refrigerator during last weekend's trip to the Far South, things haven't changed all that much.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Three Bears (A Re-Telling)

Once upon a time, there were Three Bears. Except in this case, there was no Papa Bear or Mama Bear or Baby Bear. These Three Bears all were Brother Bears.

The Three Bears lived happily in their Far South kingdom, except for Saturdays, when the peaceful kingdom was invaded by marauding warriors. At stake, the kingdom was reminded over, and over, and over, and once more for good measure, was a Bowl. This bowl had nothing to do with porridge, but rather was an event designed to take away Goldilocks's peaceful Christmas vacation.

Goldilocks, you see, had one foot in the Far South kingdom and one foot in the Home Kingdom. She had grown up in the Home Kingdom and NonBear Brother still lives proudly in the Home Kingdom.

What will you wear to the game? she was asked.

"I shall wear the Far Kingdom's T-shirt over my heart and the Home Kingdom's earrings next to my brain," she decided.

Who will you cheer for? she was asked over, and over, and over. Goldilocks struggled with the question, always wanting to be nurturing and nonoffensive. Finally she had a strategy.

"I will cheer for the offense!" she cried with delight. This strategy worked, and there was NO DEFENSE WHATSOEVER when the two kingdoms met.

Before the game the Far Kingdom prepared by trying to intimidate the Home Kingdom, and because there is nothing more intimidating than enormous helium-filled mascots, the Home Kingdom visitors who had traveled to Far Kingdom saw this coming down the street:

Finally it was time for battle. The Bears donned their battle gear.

And the battle began! But just one minute into the battle, Mother Nature decided she didn't want either one of these dadgummed kingdoms to have a bowl and ruin Goldilocks's Christmas break, so she sent a kingdom-sized storm that sent both kingdoms scurrying for shelter and resulted in a two-hour dampish warmish sardine-ish recess.
Also, Goldilocks is a terrible photographer.

But Mother Nature did not reckon with the desire of all the Bears and NonBears to have the bowl, and two hours later the battle resumed and Mother Nature said, "I give up! Here! Have some sun!"

So Bear#1 and HusbandBear put their sunglasses back on.

The battle raged, and it was exciting, since nothing is more exciting than NO DEFENSE WHATSOEVER, and when it was over, the Far Kingdom prevailed! Sic 'em!

 And there was much rejoicing among the Three Bears,

and among the Three Bears' thousands of Far Kingdom friends,

And everywhere throughout the Far Kingdom.

Except for Goldlocks, who knew that the NonBear in Home Kingdom was probably pretty darned ticked off right now, and that her peaceful Christmas vacation had just gotten much more complicated.

The End.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hello, My Name Is Granny Clampett

Husband and I are on our way to Homecoming at the Boys' university in the far, far South.

We decided to break up the interminable trip by leaving after work and staying halfway and Husband, the Priceline King, found us a wonderful hotel for next to nothing.

The hotel is chic and moderne (final "e" intentional), which is to say it looks as if it came right out of Mad Men. The corner banquette is cozy, the angles are sharp, and the light switches are hidden in ways that make you slap your forehead and say "Of course" when you finally, finally find them.

There is just one decorating choice that puzzles me. The picture you see is the bathroom door. It, too, is chic and moderne, and it slides rather than swings. It is also glass.

The glass is frosted, but my friends, frosted does not mean opaque, it means translucent. (I tried to get Husband to model the specific translucity of the door but he declined.)

Call me old-fashioned, but isn't the whole purpose of the bathroom door to provide some, well, opacity? Also, the door has a lock, which seems rather redundant when you can just glance through and say, "Yup. Occupied."

As I puzzle this out, I leave you with a picture of the cozy corner banquette. Those are, I notice, my shoes up on the far corner.

Granny Clampett, indeed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's On My Porch

This blog, like most of the rest of my life, is a non-profit venture. That is to say, I get a huge kick out of it, it's a wonderful outlet for me, and the financial return? Well, it is to laugh. Just like the rest of my life.

So if I express an opinion about a commercial venture you can bet the farm that I'm not being paid for that opinion. Unfortunately.

Anyway, people who know me at all know that I am not a shopper. That's understatement, right there. Let's put it this way: If someone suggests we are out of, say, toilet paper, this is what I feel like inside:

Don't Wanta!

Then I discovered It's a site that lets you keep an online shopping list of things you would normally have to pick up in a Wal-Mart run. Paper towels. Toilet paper. Deodorant. Mascara. Room freshener. Etc. Etc. Etc. Then, when you reach $25 worth of items, you hit "purchase" and they deliver all that stuff for free by the next day.

You may not have heard me. People, they will deliver TOILET PAPER for FREE! To your front door! In 24 hours! Now if you truly are out of toilet paper that's a long time to wait, but if you possess even the tiniest modicum of forward thinking, this is the greatest invention since, well, possibly since toilet paper itself.

Prices are about what you'd pay at the in-town store, some a little more and some a little less, but not having to go to the store?


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm Not Martha Stewart

In her heyday, my mother-in-law marked the passing seasons with holiday-appropriate decor. It was a thing to behold. You knew it was time to tear a page off the calendar just by looking at her surroundings. .

By October 1, her house was bedecked in ghosts and black cats, with porcelain pumpkins on the windowsills and an orange-and-black wreath hanging from the front door.

On November 1, the entire ambiance changed. Turkeys, cornucopia bursting with gourds and fall leaves, and grinning plastic canvas pilgrims appeared as if by magic.

Promptly on December 1 Christmas was all around. All manner of angels replaced the cornucopia, and the fall leaves gave way to candy canes and holly. When she moved into a smaller apartment a year or so ago, she pared down box after box after box of Yuletide pretties.

I occasionally wonder what she thinks of my total ineptitude with seasonal decor. My problem, I believe, is not so much that additional knick-knacks to avoid dusting irritate me, although they do, or that I am easily thrown off by change, although I am.

No, I believe my problem is that holidays sneak up on me. I don't want dilute the joy of the holidays I truly love (Thanksgiving, Christmas) by decorating too early, and suddenly we're only a few days away from the big day and it hardly seems worth the fuss. And certainly I don't want to go to any effort for the holidays that aren't so high on my excitement meter (Fourth of July, anyone?).

This year I decided to combine all of my decorating for the fall season in one wild burst of abandon.

Pumpkins, three for $10 at Apple Market. Husband carried said pumpkins from the car to the has-seen-better-days flower bed, and voila. Done.

Maybe I am Martha Stewart after all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Well, This Feels a Little Weird

I love writing. Or I should say, I love having written.

I love looking back and seeing my thoughts on the page and thinking, "Yes, that's exactly what I meant."

What I don't like so much is the moment when I hold my breath, close my eyes, and hit "Publish Post." Until that moment, there's time to take it back and do it better. It's a bizarrely exposed moment, as if I'm going to the grocery store in my nightgown.

Today a meditation I wrote is published in The Upper Room, the little devotional magazine that was part of my family's spiritual life throughout my childhood.

As I opened my e-mail this morning and saw words I had put on paper that now were being seen by three million readers, I had the same split-second moment of please-let-me-take-it-back: I want to work on this again. People would be reading this, and unlike my blog readers, these would be people who don't know me. Why didn't I write something deeper, more profound? Better?

Then I realized that I had said pretty much what I meant to say. Just as there is joy in being middle-aged chronologically, there is joy in being middle-aged in faith. Relaxing into God's guidance is a huge part of this joy.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pardon the Interruption

Before today, my cell phone ringer had gone off exactly once during Sunday morning services.

That's once in the 18 years I've owned a cell phone, and during which time I can count on both hands the number of Sunday morning I have not been in church.

Until this morning my untarnished record was marred only by the Sunday when Boy#2 was a freshman at college and called to breathlessly report "I was just rear-ended at a stop sign on the way to church. What do I do?" My answer was obvious: "Here. I'm putting your father on the phone."

This morning Husband had left following early service to help Boy#3 get on the road for school after a rare fall weekend at home. I was sitting in the back row when the text ringer chimed. I dove for the phone, but not before at least three people around me whispered, "Go ahead and take it. We'll wait." Thanks, friends.

Husband wanted to make sure which portion of the bierocks I made yesterday was for Three to take back to his apartment. Okay, it's not exactly an emergency, but I could live with it.

A few minutes later, though, Husband's ring-tone sounded again. "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" is even more rousing when played during a solemn discussion of the lifestyle of early Christians. I grabbed the phone and ran outside.

"What?" I hissed. "I'm in class."

I could hear Husband and Three, but neither was paying attention to me.


Nothing. It was what I've heard discreetly described as a pocket dial. Eventually I hung up and the incident was closed.

I mentioned the disruption of class to Boy#1 this afternoon, and he was all sympathy.

"Why wasn't your ringer off?"

"I never turn my ringer off on Sundays. I don't carry my phone in my pocket like a Boy, so the vibrate setting isn't very useful."

"Really? I may have to start texting you every week during church like I do Boy#4."


Friends in Sunday school, please accept my sincere apologies in advance.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reaping the Rewards

When the Boys were babies, it seemed as if every few days an older parent would look at our herd of chaos and remark wistfully, "Enjoy these years. They go so fast."

I wanted to punch those parents right in their misguided noses.

I am not for a moment saying that I didn't enjoy their childhoods: I still miss the suddenly heavy feeling of a baby who has just dropped off to sleep. I never got tired of watching them when they didn't see me, then seeing their joy when they realized I was there.

I loved my Boys and there were pockets of sheer delight, but there was never ever a moment off. Even when I was asleep I was one whimper away from being not asleep. I could not foresee a time at the end of the tunnel when my days would be more than an endless parade of wiping noses, cleaning up messes, refereeing squabbles, and cooking another meal before the dishes from the previous meal had been washed.

That's why it was absolute joy to have a moment like last night, as we watched Boy#3 lead his marching band sectional rehearsal after a wind ensemble concert. He had been an intense, sometimes brittle child, and we saw a young man who has matured into his passions. He led the rehearsal with confidence and aplomb, teaching as he conducted.

Only a few hours earlier we had been at supper with Three and one of his favorite cousins, a freshman at the same university. Cousin is an honor student who plans to study abroad next year. He's smart and talented and I beamed as I watched the two compare classes and plans. It feels like only moments ago we were putting these babies down for naps during family gatherings and now they're old enough to be good sports when I ask them to pose with Wilbur.

The years go so fast.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Open Letter From Dr. Mom

Dear Boys,

You know I'm reluctant to give advice (ha!), seeing as how you're all grown up and mature (haha!), but you really should do this one thing: Get a flu shot.

I'm not kidding.

Being your mother, I am anticipating that you probably will have a few objections to this advice, even though I phrased it in the form of an order that did not invite discussion. But for the sake of that discussion, let me anticipate away.

1. "I don't have time to get a flu shot." You have time to update your FaceBook, and go to intramural football games, and plan tailgating parties. If you don't get the shot and instead get the flu, there will be no more of that fun and frivolity. Instead there will be aching and wheezing and whining and coughing. Volunteer the 15 minutes for the shot now or have the entire week drafted by illness.

2. "I don't know where to get a shot." Really? You really don't? You can explain the intricacies of a 12-tone scale or carry a full load of electrical engineering classes and you can't research this problem?

3. "It costs $15 and I'm pretty broke." Fine. Your father will pay for it. Even though Kleenexes and NyQuil alone would cost you a lot more than that.

4. "I'm depending on herd immunity." Oh, you've always been exceptional. I have no doubt that you would be the lone yak in the herd that would get Mad Yak Disease.

And finally,
5. "It's okay. If I get the flu, I can take care of myself. I'm a good patient." To that, I can only say, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Ahem.

Get your flu shot. I did.

Much love,

Monday, October 11, 2010

What We Ate Over the Weekend

My mother was the bierock queen.

If you never have tasted these little meat-and-cabbage bundles of heaven, you must not have lived near any of the pockets of Bohemian descendants that made up my childhood stompin' grounds. Bierocks are delectable, easy, freezable and one of my dad's favorite foods, the special meal he requests for his birthdays.

During my respite at the farm I whipped up a double batch, using this recipe but substituting frozen bread dough and turning an all-day process into an easy hour of cooking. (Make the filling. Let three loaves of frozen dough thaw in the refrigerator over night, cut each loaf into eight slices, roll, fill, seal, bake.Voila.)

They weren't as good as Mom's, of course, but Dad was most appreciative. We ate some for lunch straight out of the oven and the rest went into the freezer. I left knowing he would have at least a few upcoming meals that were healthy and homemade.

Unlike Boy#1's lunch that same day, purchased before the football game at the Texas State Fair:

Fried Latte
Oh, my.

Friday, October 8, 2010

This Is For My Beloit Peeps

Do the cool kids even say "peeps" any more? Well, obviously they do, since I'm saying it.

Anyway, all you folks who grew up with me, I'm back in the neighborhood for a few days and I drove past the football field this afternoon. It looked great--the mascot statue that our graduating class put up is still standing, and they've added a row of flags behind it.

I drove past the flags from the south, and my first question was this: What do they mean?

I mean, they looked great, standing out straight in the brisk wind. S-N-A-J-O-R-T. Is that something new since we graduated oh, so long ago? Maybe it's textese, like LOL or OMG or FTW (which the Boys assure me means For the Win!).

I tried sounding it out--snay-jort? Snuh-JORT?

Then I rounded the curve and looked back at Beloit Trojan Field.

Oh. Okay. Never mind.

What's Outside My Window

“Sleep as late as you want tomorrow,” Dad said as he went off to bed last night.

I had arrived a few hours earlier; I told Husband I wanted to wake up on the farm.

The house was built in the mid-1860s, right after the Civil War, and my parents moved here before I turned two. Its walls are of native limestone, 14 inches thick, and when workmen replaced the roof a few weeks ago they left in place the square nails the original builders had used to attach sheeting to rafters.

I’m sure the war-shocked builders chose this location, just a few hundred feet from a creek bank, because of the easy access to water, and to the oak trees that even then were sending up saplings a few yards from the building site. I wonder, though, if they sensed the power of the place.

I didn’t always appreciate living on a farm. My friends in town had a special bond built through years of playing kick the can under streetlights, and riding bicycles to the swimming pool. My siblings and I, on the other hand, bonded by getting up at 5:30, while stars were still bright in a black winter night, and shivering as we trudged the quarter mile to where we would help Dad with chores before breakfast. 

The location ten miles out of town seemed especially cruel in the early high school years, before I was old enough to drive. I was quite certain that life in town was an endless cycle of hanging out at the Banner Burger Bar then taking a spin down Main Street and back up Mill Street to the Banner again, repeat, repeat, repeat.

It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I realized how this farm has wrapped its roots around my heart: The first weekend back from college when I walked into the kitchen, cool and smelling of apples, and nearly wept at the relief of being in its familiar embrace. Or the four months I spent back here after I had left my newspaper job and was waiting to leave for the Peace Corps, when I would sit on the porch swing and wonder where I would be after I left this place.

Over the years we have gathered at the farm in joy, gravitating to the homeplace’s solid permanence in our changeable lives. Last winter we mingled our tears here after Mom’s unexpected death.

Husband doesn’t have a homeplace. His dad was a minister, and in obedience to the call of God and the instructions of the bishop, Husband’s family moved four times while he was growing up. He is patient with my yearnings to be back “home,” and seeing this place through his eyes, I concede the isolation and the inconvenience. 

But this morning I woke up and the only sound came from a bird in the massive oak outside the south bedroom window.  It seemed to be singing a line from the most familiar Psalm, “He restoreth my soul.”

I acknowledge that only God restores my soul, but sometimes He brings me to this place when that’s necessary. Its  restorative powers are mighty, indeed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Telephone, Telegraph, Tell a Woman

It's been interesting to see how each of the Boys chooses to communicate once he is no longer within hollerin' range.

When Boy#1 went off to college, I discovered instant messaging. He obligingly checked in every day or so, sometimes for just a sentence or two and sometimes for an extended conversation. It was wonderful--I had more communication with him than I had when he was still living under our roof. When my friends complained that their children never called home, I smugly told them about the miracle that was the instant message.

Then Boy#2 went off to college and proved me a liar. I waited for his icon to appear on my instant messaging screen, and waited, and waited, and waited, and finally realized he was using a different IM service. In the meantime we impressed on him that parents' phone calls are to be answered, even if they're only demanding proof of life. Now he calls us (on a headset, of course) when he's driving, and all are happy.

Boy#3 is a music major and is in rehearsals approximately 29 hours every day, so he usually is accessible neither by IM nor by phone. For three years Husband and I have had these conversations:

"I wonder how Three is."
"Yeah, haven't heard from him in a while."
"Do you suppose he's all right?"
"Oh, I'm sure someone would have let us know if there was anything wrong."
"Oh, my gosh, we'd better call someone."

Over the weekend, I realized that in the anaconda crush that is pre-Homecoming I hadn't talked to Three for a couple of weeks, and since 7 a.m. on Saturday is not a kind time to call a college student, I wrote a long e-mail. The next day I had a long reply waiting in my in-box. I read it, and re-read it, and smiled happily, and realized why my parents saved all my letters from when I was at school. (It wasn't because they were literary masterpieces after all.)

We're still figuring out the steps of the communication dance with Boy#4. Like his mother, he's not much of one to talk on the phone. (When I am done with a conversation, I am DONE.) His circadian rhythms aren't particularly compatible to instant messaging, what with his preferred awake time being the exact same hours as my preferred sleep time.

For now, we're taking each communication as it comes, whether it's by e-mail, instant message, or telephone. In fact, just as I was writing this his instant message icon popped onto my computer screen:

"The dorm people want to do a Wizard of Oz float for homecoming because we're playing K-State."

I smile happily, even if he's irked that the Texas image of Kansas comes from a 1940s musical.

Excuse me, please. I need to talk to my Boy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hearts In My Heart

Homecomings at the college where I work are three full days of fun--for the alumni, anyway.

For the staff, homecomings are several months of preparation that escalates into lots of work then into pure stress as the weekend approaches. We want the hundreds of graduates who are coming back to have a great time reconnecting with their old classmates and teachers. We want every event, every meal, every publication, every moment to be perfect.

That means that by the time the actual event rolls around many of us are just a tetch crabby. We are over-tired, and our brains are so filled with details we're beginning to worry that our hats won't fit. Frankly, we just want to get through the weekend to the nap we know is at the other end.

But then something wonderful happens. We start to see the people instead of the party. I've worked here long enough that I have honest-to-goodness friends in the returning classes, and I begin to run into them.

Here's a new trustee, whose wife was my first student assistant and set the bar mighty high for all who have come after her. And there's Chop, a gorgeous brunette now working in community development who is as radiant and warm as she was when she wrote hometown news releases for me. I turn around at one reception to see Em, now doing "my" job at another college. Sleeping in Boy#4's bedroom are one of my all-time favorite students and her new husband.

I remember with a pang the young man who updated our websites and was essentially my Boy#5, and who died this year, unexpectedly and unfairly and far too young.

It's a weekend of bearhugs and laughter and occasional tears.

Twice over the weekend our choir sang a lovely song with lyrics taken from a poem by e.e.cummings. "I carry your heart with me," it starts, "(I carry it in my heart.)" As I listened I thought of all the students who have passed through my life in the past 14 years.

Homecoming reminds me why I love my job. These students will have many jobs after they graduate, and soon  this line will drop off their resumes altogether. That's fine with me. Long after they have forgotten that they ever worked in the public relations office, I remember. I carry their hearts with me.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Garden

Last April I planted eight kinds of plants in my new flower beds.

There were cannas, day lilies, babies breath, impatiens, geraniums, zinnias, something I don't remember the name of, and one tea rose. Oh, and begonias. Nine kinds of plants.

That didn't seem to be enough, so in May I added three kinds of mint.

I love mint, and this one smelled like chocolate! And that one was apple-y! I picked a leaf off of this one over here every time I passed, held it under my nose and smiled as I thought of my mom's mint beds. 

Then a couple of marigolds came up all by themselves and I couldn't bring myself to discourage this kind of entrepreneurial spirit, so I let them stay.

The summer came, and the zinnias multiplied and the cannas grew so high they touched the top of the porch. The impatiens drowned the day lilies, and the orderly rows of plants exploded in anarchy.

When the historic house tour folks arrive on Sunday afternoon, the more diligent gardeners will be able to feel good about their own skills as they look at this pandemonium of plant life. My flower beds are chaotic, and messy, and too loud, and and out of control, but I love them.

They're beautiful. Just like my life.