Monday, March 31, 2008

Where have all the flowers gone?

This is the season for flower shows. When you live in a state that is cold and covered in snow or ice for at least five months each year even people who don't have a green thumb visit the local flower show. They are ready to see the beautiful colors and to smell the intoxicating fragrances. For a few hours they want to forget the reality of the dirty snow and biting wind outside and pretend they have escaped to a floral paradise. They want to pretend that it is Springtime! I had my own set of expectations regarding flower shows. I had expected to need a camera or a notebook so I could quickly write down all of the creative ideas which I would want to recreate in my garden. I expected my senses to be overwhelmed. I expected to spend money on flowers and plants. I expected to be inspired. I expected to see flowers ~ and lots of them.

Now let me be clear ~ I am not a flower show expert. I would probably be considered a novice by most. I have only been to two flower shows in my whole life BUT both times I have gone with a flower show expert, my good friend, Pam. Now Pam does not have a green thumb ~she does not want a green thumb ~ but she loves flowers. She loves to be surrounded by the color and the fragrances and she does consider herself to be a flower show expert. The first time I went with her to a flower show I anticipated the ultimate floral experience.

Pam and I drove almost two hours to attend my first flower show a few years ago. She talked about the daffodils, tulips and lilies we would be seeing. She cleaned out the back of her truck so we would be able to easily fit all of our purchases back there without fear of crushing petals or breaking stems. By the time we arrived to our destination I could almost smell the roses. The flower show was being held in a building at a fairground. Since her truck was large they made us park way out in the far corner, quite a way from the building. No problem, walking is good for us. She parks, I open the door and jump out of the truck, right into... mud, lots of thick, gooey mud. My cute boot disappeared deep down into the muck. Pam is on her side of the truck and all I can hear is her giggling, laughing, squealing. I am so glad I can't see her because I know I won't be able to control my bladder if we make eye contact. I had to work hard to release my boot from the suction of the mud. Somehow we finally make it to the building, both muddy and both needing to use the restroom due to intense laughing.

We find the portapotties at the back of the building. We take a deep breath and enter. Upon leaving the portapotties we look for the sinks to wash our hands. No sink, no antiseptic hand lotion...oh, no. Now I agree that it is gross, unsanitary and just plain dirty to not have any way for people to wash their hands but I also know that my dear friend Pam is the hand washing gestapo. She once followed a woman out of a grocery store bathroom and confronted the lady as she picked up some produce. " You didn't wash your hands after going to the bathroom, how dare you touch that tomato." The woman denied the accusations but I am sure she has always washed her hands - at least in public restrooms. So...I knew a storm was brewing.

Pam searches for someone to protest to about the lack of hand washing facilities or equipment. I lag behind. And then Pam saw 'them' ~ the food vendors. Her voice raises a few octaves, "Gross! How can you be serving food when you can't wash your hands after using the bathroom? That is disgusting." I had to agree ~ it was disgusting but I thought we came to look at flowers. I am pretty sure that the most people now thought we were inspectors from the public health department. Most people were shooting us odd glares and stares.

I tried to distract Pam and reminded her about the purpose of our two hour drive. I also mentioned we would certainly not eat any food there. I pointed her in the direction of the nearest flowering shrub. Once I got my bearings and was able to focus on the flower show itself I realized how few displays of flowers there actually were in this building. I commented to Pam that there seemed to be more hot dogs than flowers. "Yeah, well, don't eat the hot dogs," she grumbled at me. Why did I have to mention the dirty handed food vendors to her again?

After one hour we had walked around the entire flower show, twice. Pam kept saying that we must have missed a room or an aisle but alas, we had not. This was it. We had driven two hours, totally almost lost my cute boot in mucky mud, and we still needed to wash our hands. We walked back through the mud to the truck and I wasn't feeling inspired. I must be honest and just tell you that I silently vowed to never go to a flower show again.

Now four years have passed and believe it or not yesterday my husband and I went to a flower show with Pam and her husband. Not only did our husbands go with us to the flower show, it was Pam's husband's idea that we all go to this flower show together. It was being held at a nearby college auditorium so at least I wouldn't have to travel two hours to get there.

I knew we were in trouble from the minute we entered the auditorium. Pam walks up to the display by the ticket booth, feels a flower and says in her loud outside voice, " What kind of flower show is this? These are fake flowers." I should have run right then and there.

We start looking around. We see mirrors, earrings, Cd's, worm composts, t-shirts, food, hot tubs, gutter systems, replacement windows...notice I have not listed any flowers. That would be because we saw few (very few) flowers. The most positive thing was that most vendors had big bowls of candy at their display so we ate candy throughout the whole event.

Pam and I were strolling along, searching for flowers when all of a sudden we saw some. It was a landscape company's display and there were flowers all around. We approached wearing big smiles. Pam couldn't believe our good fortune so she asked the vendor if these flowers were really real. "Yes, they most certainly are real, " he tells her. Pam ,of course, doesn't believe him. No, she has to step closer to touch the flowers. With total grace and poise, she steps her petite foot right into his large, glass candy bowl and shatters it to smithereens. It wasn't a quiet smash, it was a loud bellowing crash. I was in shock. I kept walking, my face turning bright red. I can hear Pam's giggle mixed in with her "Oh, my god's." I turn around to see her squatting on the floor. I can't tell if she is picking up the mess or working hard to control her bladder. I just know that I am staying away because I am going to lose all bladder control if I go near her.

A man approaches me and hands me a bag. Great, he expects me to go help her pick up this mess? He then says, " Here, put this bag over your head and pretend you don't know her." I cross my legs, looking for the closest bathroom.

Pam apologizes a zillion times to the landscaper. I think she should hire him to landscape her yard. We decide we better leave before someone gets hurt. I walk out to the truck, flowerless, again. Pam is already making plans to take me to another flower show she knows about - "a really good flower show which actually has flowers." Right. My expectation about flower shows have changed a bit. Now the only expectation I have about flower shows is that we will need to wear Depends!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Understanding and appreciating

I try and make the most of each day. I understand that it is the small things that matter in this life and I will appreciate each and every one. Enjoy !

My Christmas Cactus decided to bloom on Easter - better late than never!

Almost too pretty to eat, but this fruit dip was delicious !

My son gave me this orchid last year for Mom's Day - and it is still alive almost one year later. It recently decided to blossom again. I always thought orchids were difficult to grow - guess I have a green thumb ! Life is good!

As we drove down our road, I happened to look up at just the right time to see this barn owl sitting on a branch, enjoying the warm weather. It was the first time I have had the opportunity to see an owl in the wild. It was a great day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reach out and touch somebody.

I have witnessed her rummaging through the trash cans behind our office quite regularly. She usually strolls nonchalantly down the alley, casually approaching the trash. She looks around before opening the can, making sure no one is watching her, then she pokes around looking for something of value. A few months ago, I started leaving items I no longer needed on top of the trash can covers for her so she wouldn't have to dig through the smelly, decomposing garbage. Sometimes she takes the items, sometimes not.

Two weeks ago, as I was leaving our office, I noticed her going through our trash cans. I had a bag of clothes in the back of my car which I had been meaning to drop off at a Goodwill bin. I called out to her. "Hey, would you like some clothes?" I startled her, and she picked up her bags and scurried away. "Wait, come back," I hollered, " I have something for you." She stopped.

We approached each other cautiously, sizing each other up as we got closer. She was shorter than me, probably in her late fifties. She has the wrinkles, bad dye job, no teeth on top, no sparkle left in her eyes. Life has not been easy.

I held out the bag of clothes to her, offering them to her as a gift. She held out an old band radio to me. "Here, you take this radio, it works. Look, here is the on/off button." She didn't want to take my clothes as a hand-out, she wanted to trade with me. My respect for her grew.

"I really don't need a radio. I am actually trying to clean out my house," I explained to her, "Why don't you keep the radio and take the clothes?" I suggested.

At this point, my son, Jeff, who had been watching from a distance, joined us. At 23 years old and towering over both of us at 6'4", I could see a mixture of curiosity and compassion in his eyes. He pulled out his wallet and handed the woman a ten dollar bill. "Here, I'd like to give you this," he said gently. The woman jumped backward, insulted, "I don't take handouts."

Quick on his feet, Jeff responded, "I will buy the radio from you for ten bucks." She quickly grabbed the ten and handed Jeff the radio, telling him that it was a good deal. She then went on to tell us that her father had lived in the nursing home around the corner before he had died. She then rambled on a bit about her father and his spirit and how it was shining down on her. She couldn't wait to tell her neighbor that it was her lucky day. I had to smile, albeit a sad smile. Her eyes darted around quickly as she talked, and it was quite clear that her mind was also darting around.

I tried to refocus her and once again offered her the bag of clothes. She told me that she would look through the clothes to see if there was anything she could use. I had to fight the feeling of frustration that was developing. I had to admire the fact that she didn't want to take my hand-me -downs just because they were free. She was picky about what she would wear ~ she has some pride left. She has some qualities which I truly respect.

I pulled a white blouse out of the bag. "Honey, I am not a nurse. I wanted to be a hairdresser for the movie stars but it didn't work out." She shrugged as she told me this. Hmm... getting rid of these clothes was going to be harder than I thought.

I tried to not be defensive as she picked through the bag, making piles of keeps and rejects. I started to use my best sales approach on her. "Look at these cute brown boots. They would look very nice on you." I held them out so she could take a better look.

She pushed them away. "Honey, I have hammer toes. Those boots won't fit me." Hammer toes, hmm.... I rummaged through my bag, determined to find something that she would approve of. I pulled out a pair of sneakers with a wide toe. "These would be great for your hammer toes - look at the width through the top of the shoe," I pleaded.

"Well, I guess so. Okay, I'll take them." She took them because she felt pity for me, I could just feel it. She took a few more items, some for herself and some for her neighbor. She is a good neighbor. She has to be respected for that.

We said our good-byes. She blessed us and told us again how it was her lucky day. She headed on down the street. I re - bagged my reject clothes. Jeff and I put the radio into the back of my car. I sputtered about how I was trying to get rid of junk and now I was bringing more stuff home. His wallet was ten dollars lighter but we were both much richer than we had been ten minutes earlier.

We drove down the street. As we sat at a red light, we noticed our new friend bent over her bag of clothes, obviously searching for something. I was puzzled and curious. Lord, I hope she's not going to strip right here in broad daylight and put on her new outfit. I hope the red light stays red.

She then pulls the sneakers out of the bag. She inspects them closely. What the heck is she doing? All of a sudden, she flings one of my sneakers onto a person's front yard. I am stunned. What is wrong with my sneakers? They would be perfect for her hammer toes! Then she looks around ~ to the right and to the left. She whips the other sneaker into a snowbank. I can't believe it. The light turns green and I slowly start to drive. I look out the window at my sneakers, laying on some stranger's front yard, rejected. My new friend pulls her coat around herself, picks up her belongings and heads home.

We start laughing. I think she took my sneakers because she didn't want to hurt my feelings. She
was concerned about my feelings. So there they sit. I have often wondered how shoes end up in odd places ~ hanging from phone wires or lying atop of snowbanks. Now I know. I also know that each person has a history, a story of their own, which needs to be considered and respected. You never know how someone is going to touch your life unless you allow them the opportunity to touch you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day to All !

May your troubles be less,

and your blessings be more,

and nothing but happiness

come through your door !

~ Irish Blessing

I am truly blessed ~ I have the good fortune to be married to my best friend who I adore and love more with each passing day. I have four fabulous children of whom I am so very proud. And then there are my friends. I am so happy when surrounded by all of my family and friends. We laugh, we dance, we giggle, we get sillier than silly. Sometimes we cry, we hurt, we comfort and we stand by each other through thick and thin. We understand, we listen and we talk ~ a lot. Sometimes serious, more often not, we empower each other to be the best we can possibly be. We share our successes, our failures and learn from each other. Those who understand the value of friendship are truly blessed.

Monday, March 10, 2008


After a recent workout at the gym I retreated to the locker room to change. I noticed a teenage girl pacing around as I entered my changing stall but didn't think too much about it. I set about changing out of my sweaty clothes when the 'Pacer' yells out, "Felicia, are you almost done yet?" A girl in the stall next to mine, Felicia I assume, replies, "No, I am trying to fix my hair. I want it to look perfect." I look in the mirror at my hair. I want my hair to look perfect too. I move a couple of sweaty strands around. I am not quite sure how to make perfect hair.

A few more minutes go by and I can tell that 'Pacer' is now also toe tapping. "Felicia, what the heck are you doing now? Are you still messing with your hair?" Felicia huffs. "I have my bangs looking just right and now I am working on the back. Here, come look." I try to peek through the crack of my stall door but can't see anything. Toe-tapping Pacer exclaims, "Oh my god, Felicia, your hair looks sooooo good. I love what you've done to the back of it. How did you do that?"
I stand on my tippy toes, straining to see over the top of my door. I have to see this perfect hair-do. I am not quite tall enough.

I run the brush quickly through my hair. I rush to get into my clothes so I can get out of my stall before Felicia leaves. I have got to see her perfect hair. Oh great, I just put my sweater on backwards. I whip it off my head and mess up my perfect hair. I run my fingers through it - guess I will go for the natural look today - as I do every day. I shove my feet into my shoes. I bet she did a fancy braid or maybe a fun ponytail. I am envious even though I haven't seen it yet.

Felicia and the Pacer are now gushing over her hair in the main locker room. I try to be nonchalant as I walk by them but I have to stop and stare at Felicia's hair, at the perfect hair- which took her over 20 minutes to create. Toe tapping Pacer is still oohing and aahhing over Felicia's hair. Felicia's hair is straight in the back. That's it. There are even a fair amount of split ends. She has brushed it straight. Her bangs are straight. No fancy curls, braids or up dos.
I smile and resist the urge to tell Felicia that she is lucky to have a friend like 'Pacer', a friend who understands what it means to be perfect.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Who has the handbook?

I need to get back to normal and write about anything besides India. I am even dreaming India and wake up confused about where I am. I trip over furniture in my bedroom when I make a early morning trip to the toilet because I am disoriented. I want to feel normal, whatever that might be.

I feel unsettled since returning and I can't figure out why I feel this way. I feel angry - and yes, I do know why. One of the first emails I read upon returning to the USA was from my husband's sister, Margo. Her husband was diagnosed on Valentine's Day with pancreatic cancer with spots on his liver. Their life has been turned upside down - just like that. They had just been on a vacation less than a month earlier to the Yucatan. You never know what tomorrow holds.

The list of people I know who have been directly affected with cancer continues to grow. I pray. I get angry. I try to understand why bad things happen to good people. I don't want to read the book by that title. I know life isn't fair. Knowing that doesn't make it any easier.

I know all the quotes about living each day to the fullest - and I truly try to do that but...some days it just doesn't help. I ran on the treadmill for two miles today, thinking it would help. Nope. I read some inspirational reading material hoping to be inspired. Nope. I have tried talking to anyone who will listen to get a handle on life. Thanks for listening. I have cried. Crying can cleanse the soul. Guess I need to shed more tears.

I am wondering if I came into this world with a manual explaining life to me. Did I misplace it? So many people seem to have their brains on straight and they understand life. How come I feel so confused? I need to keep on searching for the answers - I wish I had that manual.
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