Tuesday Question

This week, I'm asking you questions!


Today's question . . . is about friendship. 

Who, that you still keep in touch with, is your oldest friend?
(The emphasis here is on the words that you still keep in touch with.)

As for me . . . well, I can only stretch back to my college days for my oldest friend that I still keep in touch with! It's my friend, Beth. We first met at a panhellenic event early in our freshman year (we were each pledge class presidents for our respective sororities -- she was a Pi Phi and I was a Tri Delt). We were both elementary education majors, and had a lot of classes together . . . and we just generally hit it off. After college, we lived in nearby towns in Colorado (for a few years; before Tom and I were off to Texas, and she and her husband headed back to Wyoming). We were in each others' weddings. We vacationed in Mexico together. We were pregnant at the same time. For a few years she lived in Wyoming again, and we could visit when Tom and I went back to see family. Now, she and her husband live in Idaho, and we haven't seen each other in years. But we still stay in touch -- with good old fashioned letters!

How about YOU?
I can't wait to hear your stories!


(And if you have any questions you'd like me to answer in a future blog post . . . well. Go ahead. Ask!)



A Week Filled With . . . Questions

A while ago now . . . Carole invited her blog readers to ask her questions. Any questions. About anything. And, then, at some point in the future, she'd answer those questions in blog posts. I thought this was a brilliant idea! (And fun, too! It's always fun to hear stories.)

I thought I might follow Carole and do something similar.
Only . . . in reverse!

This week, I'm going to ask YOU questions.
You can answer in the comments.


Here's my Monday Question (which is really a series of related questions):

Happiness "guru" and author/podcaster Gretchen Rubin (who I have a rather love/hate relationship with, but will reserve that story for another day) has developed a framework for helping us understand ourselves (and others) better. Her Four Tendencies framework (complete with a quiz) is designed to help us achieve our goals and do the things we want to do in our lives by getting a handle on how we respond to expectations. 

Have you heard of Gretchen's Four Tendencies framework?
Have you taken the quiz?
What is your tendency?
And does that seem . . . right . . . to you?


As for me. . . well, I'm always interested in learning more about myself, so I think Gretchen's Four Tendenices framework is fascinating! I've taken the quiz, and I've read her Four Tendencies book, as well. Turns out I'm a Questioner . . . who "tips" Rebel sometimes. People who know me pretty well in real life think this is an accruate description of how I operate . . . and it feels right to me, too. I really don't like to do anything I haven't already decided to do, but if I decide to do something . . . I will do it. (But I probably won't do what you tell me to do.) (Or if I must do what you tell me to do, I'll probably make up my own rules for it.) 

How about YOU?
I'd love to hear about your experiences and what you think!


(And if you have any questions you'd like me to answer in a future blog post . . . well. Go ahead. Ask!)

Creepy Crawlies

(Trigger warning: snakes)

As I putter around in my garden, I run into a garter snake once in a while. I know they're in there . . . hanging around in my shrubs and tall grasses (as they do). But I don't usually see them very often . . . maybe one a year? Maybe less?

When I do encounter one in the garden, I'm always startled. Really startled. Because they move so quickly. And they camouflage so effectively. I never see them . . . until they move. I'm not afraid of them, really. I don't mind that they're out there, in my garden. But they will always make me jump a little bit. And then run for my camera! (Because they're kind of cool.) (They're also good for the garden - click here to learn more - and are actually a sign of a healthy, well-balanced garden.)


This one . . . really surprised me! Because it was bigger than most garter snakes I see (about 3 feet long) and it moved across my path from the grass to this spot under the rose bush . . . quick as a wink. (It was not happy to see me, but it did pose for several photos.)

For whatever reason, I'm seeing more garter snakes than usual in my garden this year. Lots more. Enough that I poke around a bit with my garden tools before moving in under thick cover to do any weeding or digging. (I figure they don't want to see me the same way I don't want to see them, and my "poking around" gives them fair warning.)


Here's another one (much smaller; more typical) . . . just sunning itself in the midst of salvia plant. (Brian took this photo.)  

The other day, Tom was out in the driveway and noticed a couple - just out for a walk - suddenly take out their phones and start taking pictures in our yard. They'd spotted a garter snake and were fascinated! (To Tom and I, it's kind of old news by this point.)

So. This is the Year of the Snake . . . in my garden, at least!
(Which may explain why there are no frogs in my pond this year. . . )


I hope you have a great weekend.
With no snakes (unless you want to see them) . . . 

Signs In My Garden

Last week I shared three smiles in my garden.
This week? I'm sharing signs.

I have all kinds of "words" in my garden . . . 


(They're everywhere in my garden, actually.)
But today, I'm going to share 3 signs I don't think I've shared before.

First, there's this one.


This one is right next to my garage, right at the top of my driveway, so that anyone pulling in can see just what we stand for . . . in this house. It's a standard yard sign that I have nestled into my front flower border. It works. Enough said.

Then, there's this one . . . 


Many years ago, I certified my garden as a Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, and Tom was kind enough to get me this lovely plaque to mark my garden. The sign gets obliterated in the summer by my very happy and very vigorous Autumn Joy clematis, but I do get asked about it quite often - especially in the spring and fall, when the sign is more visible. I love having a garden that is welcoming and safe for "woodland creatures" . . . even if it means deer nibbling on my hydrangeas and bunnies shredding my basil. (If you want to learn more about certifying your garden, click here for the scoop.)

And last, there's this one . . . 


A gentle reminder.
And the epitome of what I want my garden to remind me (and anyone visiting it) to do!


How about you? Do you have any signs in your garden?


Be sure to visit Carole today, for more Three on Thursday posts!

A Different Kind of Canvas

Here in blogland, Wednesdays are typically a day we share what we're making. Usually with yarn. But sometimes we share other kinds of making . . . sewing, quilting, painting, embroidery. 

For me, in the summer, I don't always have so many of those more "traditional" making kinds of projects to share. Because my time gets eaten up in different ways during the summer months, and I don't find as much time to sit and knit or stitch -- or paint. In fact, just last night I canceled out of my weekly watercolor class. I explained to my instructor that . . . I just didn't have anything to share. I hadn't done my homework. And I didn't think I could sit still long enough for 3 hours to engage with the lesson for the week. (I really shouldn't have signed up for the summer session in the first place. I usually don't. I know better. Oh, well. . . )

I used to feel bad about walking away from my regular pastimes during the summer (holding on to those expectations and arbitrary rules much?), but I don't really anymore.

I've come to accept that I'm just . . . working with another type of fiber.
A different kind of canvas, you might say.


This is my wild-and-woolly, volunteers welcome, follow-no-rules pollinator garden. (It's a certified Monarch Waystation.) It's a great example of a different kind of making -- and it really does tick off all of my "making" boxes. I've got . . . 

Playing with color.


And texture.


Moving my hands in a productive way.


And soothing my soul.


Plus, there is the added benefit of knowing I'm "doing good" by creating a welcoming space for the pollinators of the world!


(And dogs.)


I may not be able to wear it . . . or gift it . . . or hang it on my wall.
But it's a kind of canvas all the same!


How about you? What are you making this week?


Be sure to visit Kat today . . . for links to the more traditional (and inspiring!) Unraveled kinds of posts!

Summer of Ease

Coming into this summer season, I really didn't know what to expect. 

Would the pandemic feel "over?" Would we be able to get out and about in more "normal," summer-y ways? Would we be able to gather with . . . people?

And . . . how would that all feel, exactly?


And then, well. Everything just kind of happened at once! All of a sudden, there are places to go. People to see. Things to do.

Life has . . . opened up . . . again.
(Don't get me wrong. You still won't find me in crowds or at a concert or anywhere there are likely to be people of questionable vaccination status, but it all does feel bigger and more wide open again, y'know?)

Right away, early in the summer, I started feeling a bit . . . itchy and sort of stressed out. I had established a routine for myself - a way to get through my days - during the pandemic. And I actually liked it; I was used to it. But, suddenly, that routine was being . . . oh, not really interrupted (although kinda). Just . . . nudged . . . in ways that didn't always feel good. I found I was clutching tighter to my established routine . . . even though I was also adding more people and unexpected - although welcome - events and options into my life. And it was creating a bit of a jumble for me. 

Clearly, I needed a shift in my approach.
And my attitude.

I needed to let things go . . . and be more spontaneous.
I needed to . . . go with the (new) flow.

It's not always easy to let things go -- especially when it's mostly (maybe even entirely) self-driven expectations and artbitrary rules. But it's so awesome when it happens. When you let your fingers stop clutching at the dock, for example, and you let go . . . and just bob along with the current.

This summer, I'm practicing spontaneity. Letting myself off the hook more than I usually do. Relaxing into this "new" reality.

I'll tell you . . . Life is easier this way.
Summer is easier.

Let go.
Find ease.
(Who knew?)


"Everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it."
        --- David Foster Wallace

Summer Refresh

July . . . in the garden . . . isn't quite like June.

In June, everything is so exciting! Emerging. Growing. Blooming like mad. There's even some enthusiasm for the more mundane gardening chores like weeding, watering the containers, transplanting, and deadheading. After a long winter inside - dreaming about being out in the garden again - those chores seem (kind of) . . . fun.

By July? Well. Maybe not so much.

The garden story is changing a bit. The excitement has died down. Blooms are fading. Growth is slowing. Weeds are EVERYwhere. It becomes very obvious where the "holes" are . . . which plants didn't quite perform like you'd hoped, for example. Or areas of the garden that need more color or foliage . . . or something. Maybe . . . you wished you'd mulched more. Or . . . damn those deer. And, hey! What happened to the basil? You can see where your irrigation system isn't working. Those mundane garden chores just aren't so charming anymore.


In short, it takes WORK to keep a garden looking good for the whole season. And it becomes glaringly obvious in . . . oh, about July.

For me, this always means . . . Summer Refresh! A time to assess and plot for the even drier, hotter months ahead. What's working out there? What's not? What do I need more of? What can I cut back? Where do I need to up my watering game? That kind of thing.

Luckily, most garden shops and nurseries are there to help me out at this time of year . . . with SALES. Now is a great time to find discounted plants at your local nurseries. Sure. The plants may be more root-bound and "leggy" than they are earlier in the season. But the nurseries price them to move -- and you can get some great deals.

Earlier this week, I visited the annual "cart sale" at one of my local nurseries. They pull out all their excess annuals into their parking lot (we're talking racks and racks of blooming annuals and leggy vegetables) (and a very big parking lot). Shoppers grab a giant cart (a "nursery gurney" as my mom used to call them)  . . . and you fill the whole thing up for $55. (When I first started going to the cart sale, it was $35. . . just sayin) There are rules, of course. No stacking. Nothing can be hanging off the cart. But, other than that . . . it's pretty much open season.

And it's a great way to fill "holes" in your garden or containers!


(This is my cart this year. Not as "loaded" as some years, but full enough for sure!)

This weekend, you'll find me in my garden* . . . refreshing containers, dragging some hoses, moving a few plants around, weeding (always), and following my constant garden mantra/refrain: If it's brown, cut it down.


(One of my recently-refreshed front porch containers.) (It really needed some extra oomph this year.)

I'm eager for a refresh out in the garden!
(And, actually, this is all a metaphor for life. But that's for another post, another day.)

I hope you all enjoy a lovely, long weekend . . . refreshing anything that needs refreshing!


* No Up-North-for-the-4th for us! It's too crowded and too busy up there over the 4th. And there are just . . . too many fireworks. (JoJo struggles mightily with the fireworks, and she really suffers when we're up north where it's constant firecrackers ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT, FOR DAYS.) So we stay home for a quiet(er) . . . refresh.




Smiles in My Garden

My garden always makes me smile . . . but there are also smiles IN my garden!

Sneaky little smiles.
Like this one . . . 


This little frog has been in my garden . . .  somewhere . . . since about 1998 or so. I used to take the kids to the plant nurseries with me when they were little, and I'd often keep them occupied by letting them "pick something out" for the garden. Usually, I ended up with some odd-colored annual or another, but one year, it was this goofy little frog. He's getting pretty worn now, over the years -- and one of his eyes is totally scraped off, thanks to Jenny finding him in the garden when she was a puppy . . . and giving him a good puppy-chew! This year, I stuck him in one of my front containers.

Every time I see him, he brings back memories of my early gardening days.
And I smile.

And there's this guy . . . 


A goofy little garden gnome I found at Walgreens a few years ago for $2.99. He used to be bright and vibrant. Now he's weathered and chipped. I actually like him more as he weathers, standing guard out there every season at the base of my (also weathering) garden bench. Most visitors to my garden don't even notice him, nestled there in the sedum . . . but I know he's out there. He's kind of my gardening good-luck charm! One of the first things I bring out every spring.

Everytime I see him, I remember that you don't have to be "fancy" to be charming!
And I smile.

And there's this guy . . . 

IMG_4750 3

My little Jizu statue. Standing about 10 inches tall, my Jizu guards the little "puddle pond" in my garden. I bought him several years ago during a visit to the Japanese garden at the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids on a visit with my mom. (She just loved the Japanese gardens there.) I love the story and symbolism behind the Jizo statues (you can read more about them here if you're interested), and I love having my little Jizo nearby.

Every time I see him, he brings me a peaceful feeling.
And now he reminds me of my mom, too.
And I smile.


How about you? Do you have any smiles in your garden?


Be sure to hop over to Carole's today . . . for more Three on Thursday fun.

Leisurely Pursuits

In the summer, I get busy in my garden, and with the back-and-forth of going up north . . . and my "making" slows way down. And . . . I'm really just fine with that! Stitching, after all, is just one - of many - leisurely pursuits for me.

But I actually finished something recently. Way back in May, you might remember I showed you this photo . . . 

IMG_3852 2

I was going to stitch up this top.
Months ago, now.

Finally stitched it up last weekend!


Now . . . I don't always like to wear woven tops or shirts. (I prefer stretchy knits and t-shirts for comfort and easy movement.) But I'm gonna tell you, this Remy Raglan pattern has kinda changed my thinking. When I got finished sewing, I did a try-on . . . and ended up wearing the shirt all day long! In total comfort and ease. (See above.)

Now I'm plotting and scheming to make more!


(Still needs a button.)

This pattern is (fairly) quick to make (I always hesitate to make that statement, because I'm an experienced seamstress and your mileage may vary). The instructions are clear. And there are some nifty techniques that really finish this shirt off "professionally" (all the seams are French seams, for example). Also . . . the possibilities for "playing around" with this design are endless. (Just take a look at the #remyraglan hashtag on Instagram for some true inspiration.)

Anyway. Great outcome for this top! I'm glad I finally made the time to stitch it up.

In knitting news . . . well. I'm still plugging along with the same old thing


Slow Leisurely progress is progress all the same.


How about you? What are you making this summer?

Strong Roots


Last night, we had a thunderstorm. Big thunder. Impressively loud. (JoJo cowering under the bed loud.) As I laid there in bed, listening to the rain and the thunder, I was thinking about my garden . . .

We've had a lot of rain these past few days. Like . .  a LOT of rain. Making-up-for-lost-time rain. Buckets. Of. Water. 

And yet . . . my plants stand tall.

IMG_4805 3

Even delicate plants on very long stems, like my drumstick allium (above) defy gravity and heavy rains to stand tall in my border.

How do they do that?
Well . . . ROOTS, of course!

My plants have put down strong roots deep in the ground, firmly connecting them to the earth and providing the nutrients they need to withstand whatever happens above the ground. Weather. Dogs. Sprinkler system repairs. Nature's disruptions.*

I know my own roots are like that, too.
Firmly connecting me to the earth.
Providing the nutrients I need.
Helping me withstand whatever is going on . . . above ground.


And I've got a lot going on this summer. It's all good and I'm happy about all of it. (Except tripping over Jenny this morning and doing a hard face plant into the wall. That was not so good. . . ) I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes . . . 

"I am rooted, but I flow."
        --- Virginia Woolfe

I can withstand the rain and the thunderstorms of life - the unexpected, the surprises, the things that completely throw off my schedule and force me to move in a different direction - the good, the bad, and the ugly of life - BECAUSE I have a strong and well-developed root system.

That's me!


* Drought is another thing entirely. A topic for another day. . . 


June is also the "traditional" time to reflect and review how things are going so far with our words (in Ali Edwards' One Little Word Land). I always enjoy and appreciate a good "check-in." I'll say that, overall, ROOT has been an excellent word choice for me this year, and it's been an especially perfect word as I make my way through the COVID landscape. One of the most interesting?, weird?, surprising? things about my little "look back" . . . has been my list of intentions and goals for the year. Let's just say . . . they need a mid-year overhaul! Because it's very clear that I was in a completely different place back in January. (It made me realize how much has changed since I originally put together my list of things I wanted to do.

Working on that, too.


How about you? If you chose a word for the year, how are things going for you?