Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Quick Flooding Update

Well, the river is still rising. The current has really started to move. The KATY Trail picture may not look appreciably different but the base of those trees are six feet below the trail and the normal river channel is another fourteen feet lower. The trail at this northern point might get wet, but it is already underwater a quarter mile from here. Note our new, this year, picnic pavilion appears to be in the middle of the river. It is usually more than fifty yards from the river bank which drops down about twelve feet before you can get your feet wet. The Canadian geese seem to be enjoying the expanded riverfront...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lull between Holidays

Happy Holidays from Emma & Wendy!
It has been a long semester of school... fingers crossed I will graduate in May 2016. I continue to work at walking, all the while marveling at the skill of my surgeon and the incredible blessing of finding him. I was unable to return to my job since I worked at a shipping company and the extreme package lifting combined with compression weight was not recommended for my new ankle. I am a bit anxious anticipating the finances of this "retirement" & as a student in the new year. Ducks in a row (I hope), I will find a job with my shiny, new degree in hand. My internship assisting in an ESL program went well and allowed me to get a sense of how I would do as a teacher. I got favorable reviews and frankly enjoyed the experience; all positive signs!

We celebrated a small Christmas, managed a group effort on decorating and the paper tree was/is beautiful. I believe any "tree" becomes a magical vision once decorated and the paper tree seems to prove that theory. Christmas is not one of my favorite holidays considering I have worked so many of them and the obligatory consumerism has created a holiday event rather than a meaningful experience. So I have modified my Christmas activities, I shop August to October, we eat out on Christmas Eve at a local Thai restaurant, and we only do a few gifts apiece with lots of chocolate. This seems to be an easier approach that we are all comfortable with, then Christmas Day has become a brunch smorgasbord with quiet music.

This year we were snow-free, but WOW did it rain! Locally, we received ten inches of rain and the Missouri River came up fast. Flooding is underway in areas close to the river. We are a couple of miles uphill, so no flooding here except the small stream running through my basement.This is the Lewis & Clark Museum and Boathouse which I frequently use as a flooding marker. See this post a couple years ago 
that was shallow flooding... this flood is several feet in swirling depth.
The river isn't slated to crest until Thursday, so I'm thinking that the water will be over the KATY Trail by then. I have heard the levee at West Alton is being breached. I hope everyone has evacuated, cuz this is fast moving, cold, really cold water. So do we believe in global climate change yet? I surely do.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Squeezing it all in...

Oh wow! Time flies and there is so much to do! School has started off with a lot of reading and many more papers than I would have expected for "fluff" classes. I have got all my major requirements completed, so this and next semester are strictly broadening my horizons with electives.

I am still off work on disability and am exercising through twice a week physical therapy. Quite a work out! All those leg lifts I did while wearing a cast helped I suppose, but there are a lot of muscles that were quite content on their siesta. It's ouchy now that I am challenging them. How is it that the lower back can get so weak? Anyway, I am done with the walker except for my first few morning steps to the kitchen to boil water for tea. I use a cane outside the house, but walk, without one in the house. Three months of hopping one one leg has really sapped my endurance...

The internship teaching English and literacy is going well. I am putting in about fifteen hours a week in the classroom and more time finding resources and prepping lessons. I am juggling my school work and my students' as well.

I did finish this Mushishi Yarn shawl for Val though. I expanded the Lonely Tree pattern off Ravelry to add about nine more rows. This was a math challenge, but fortunately the project turned out well. It's her "thank you for helping me through the ankle surgery" gift for her birthday. We got it blocked today. I think it looks pretty good and I am glad she is excited about it.

So, here's to fast typing and getting everything done & exercised this semester.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The last fun read

School starts for me at university tomorrow. I have printed off my syllabi and coordinating hours for my senior internship. All the summer reads are in the library book bag for return. The autumn season is starting, temperatures are cooling and school work resumes.

I have just finished the last pleasure reading book of my summer of recuperation. The book, Lost Luggage, written by Spaniard, Jordi Punti is a fascinating story documenting the complicated lives of orphans. The main character, Gabriel Delacruz, is an orphan who fathers four sons named Christopher by four separate women living throughout Europe. Ultimately, he abandons his sons and they are raised by their mothers. While this seems cold-blooded, Gabriel is an extraordinary character and the four Christophers unite to search for their father. A well written text that explores the effects of Franco on Spain and the myriad psychological traumas people endure throughout their lives. Punti is a perceptive, as well as creative author who creates a believable and well-written literary effort.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Putting one foot in front of the other

The new sneakers
A week and a half ago the ankle doc said, "Start walking, in good sneakers and oh sure, you can drive too." Yee-ha! I clump out of his office with my boot and walker, making mental lists of all the stuff I can get done before school starts, and I am thrilled to become a less needy member of my family team. This is going to be great!

Well, wow... my foot sort of hurts stepping out in my old sneakers and boy, does it swell up with this new activity. Let's just say when I wear yellow anklet socks, my right ankle really does look like a tennis ball. I also can't quit the aluminum walker, I sort of tip over and my right leg gets a bit wonky without the support. This is all slightly disappointing for my impatient, ready-to-be-over this recovery phase and on to real-life stuff mindset.

So, I bought new sneakers; I had them fitted at a specialty shop, explained my situation, and spared no expense. Thinking this will be the magic bullet solution to my ambulatory challenges. Well, it wasn't, but it did help. My foot feels better and I am certainly styling in these colorful, light-weight, technologically wondrous shoes, but realistically only time and practice walking on two feet will create improvement.

The key word being practice. I sort of threw myself into coping with life outside the house, using my new sneakers, and rolling along with the walker. I set up my senior communication internship with the local English Language Acquisition program, meeting with the director and lead teachers. Explaining repeatedly the temporary-ness of my disability and trying to impress them intellectually, while not letting the walker silently scream, "incapable" by its presence in the room. Happily, I got the internship.

Thrilled with my success I had to really admit that now I was afraid... of driving. I hadn't driven since May! I had become someone chauffeured. I had coached my youngest to drive and finally get her license this July, but that did little to give me confidence in my skill behind the wheel. Anyway, I finally had to do a test run, I threw the walker into the passenger seat, got my temporary handicap tag and took off. Thank goodness, driving is like riding a bike, you don't forget and since there is just a little pressure needed from the ball of the foot, I am fine. No need to clear the roads folks, driving, unlike walking is something I am good at.

So while I have figured out some of my limitations, like grocery shopping and long hikes, I seem to be making sure and slow progress. I start school again next Tuesday and have a full week interning. I bought a stylin' purple flowered aluminum cane at the pharmacy though, and have been practicing in a hall at home... It's all about baby steps.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cast free!

I have two feet again. I am still hopping, but allowed to put 1/4 of my weight on my new ankle. So yes, the walker is still part of my ensemble, and now with a heavy, protective black boot. Slow progress, but progress all the same.

Last weekend I had my first moments of actually feeling... bored. It has taken almost two months, but it happened. I think it is easy to become dispirited while isolated from normal daily activities and friends. Since I am currently unable to enjoy the usual ambulatory freedoms biped folks experience, my accessible world has shrunk. This experience has certainly opened my eyes to  those "invisible" issues regarding handicap accessibility and transportation, the number of lonely hours during the workday and the discomfort of asking for assistance. It is difficult to feel useful and dependent simultaneously. So my boredom begets some fretting and anxiety, and then a little sadness happens to spiral down my mood.

I took to the sunny porch yesterday and watched the hummingbirds flitting throughout the garden. They climb inside many of the gladiola blooms, as well as sipping from all three feeders. There are also two youngster hummers that hatched this season. These immature Ruby Throats are sleek with white bellies and chests. They are very curious about people and repeatedly were "humming" about a foot away from my face.

I have started listening to audiobooks, simulating someone reading me a story. My daughter chose the Dresden File series for me from the library. Jim Butcher writes this fantasy series set in present day Chicago, overrun with wizards, vampires and many otherworldly creatures. Not usually my favorite genre but the audiobook narrator, James Marsters has a fabulous voice which makes for wonderful listening.

I am also completing some older, unfinished knitting projects, such as this lace scarf out of Frog Tree Alpaca. The pattern is Dutch and called Gull Wings from Harrisville Designs I have been toting yarn and a half scarf around for years; I think 2010 is when I cast it on and it needs to be done. Fortunately, the scarf still looks good, even though I found some fiber breakage on the outside of the skeins. At least I have a head start on holiday gifts!

I am hoping that these new pursuits will help discourage the insidious effects of boredom and an aimless worry-mode.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Cast 2.0

I am sporting a different color right leg now, and it is much more comfortable than my green cast. I looks bigger because it is, but it's weight is more evenly distributed. I don't wake up with my right hip throbbing in  pain anymore. I am still hopping and non-weight bearing, but I may be getting a walking cast next week. I am sure I won't be allowed to strut out the door and resume my life, but maybe, just maybe I'll walk out into the garden...

We are still having weekly torrential rains and the ground is so saturated an occasional local tree, simply tips over. The amount of precipitation we have had since May is record-breaking. Consequently, I continue voracious reading, and some knitting between hopping around the house or library/restaurant.

I have noticed spicy foods, really knock back the boring, and mundane "blahs" that accompany my ambulatory limitation. The local Thai kitchen has been cranking up the chilies in my usual favorite, yellow curry, and combined with the dish's turmeric, it is a tummy full of sunshine! Smiles for all after a shared meal here.

My latest read was The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng. A compelling work of fiction woven around history at the end of WWII in Malaysia. Japanese gardening, art, and tattoos have a role in this book short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2012. I highly recommend this read.

As a "thank you" for my oldest daughter for all her help during my incapacity, I am knitting her a scarf. She had knitted a cabled purse for me a couple of years ago for Christmas (see the post here ) and there were two skeins left over. The yarn is a lovely Rowan Chunky in shades of blue, and green, with a bit of cherry and mauve. The pattern is from Gardiner Yarn Works, called One Night Stand, designed by Leila Wice and distributed by Cascade Yarns in 2009. Rowan yarn is a pleasure to knit. This project is knit on size 10 needles and is 7" wide. I've got about 32'' in length from one skein of yarn so far...

Friday, June 26, 2015

1 Month out

Four whole weeks have passed in this post-operative healing stage... I am a little restless on occasion and need to get out of the house, but otherwise, I have been content reading, knitting, Pinteresting and contemplating the amazing possibilities of..., oh, I don't know, the novel lurking in my brain or a higher score on Tetris. I have appreciated catching up on some sleep. I hope to have a healed ankle, as well as some other project to show for all this time off.

No rain and much less humidity this evening, so I got out into the yard to weed 3 of the 4 raised beds with Juli's help. The two "Cherry tomato" plants have some suspiciously large green tomatoes, but I will take what I can get and try not to believe both plants were mistakenly tagged. Our two tiny zucchini have rotted, but there is another starting which I hope will benefit from more sun and heat.

The roses are blooming less without sunshine, but overall, the foliage is a healthy green. Juli gave a dose of Neem oil spray to the arbor and fence roses which are the only two with some black spot fungus. Son Jim picked off and crushed about 50 Japanese beetles from the Knockout rose near the arbor. The rain has given the Japanese beetles a late and significantly limited attack so far this year.

With the amazing amount of rain that we have had, the perennial gardens have plants growing over each other. The lack of sun has limited the blooms though, so I hope there will be some sunny days soon to pop out some color. As you can see the Bleeding Heart is yellowing and dying back, the Black-Eyed Susans (rudebeckia) are nearly ready to bloom, and the gladiolas are starting to show some colorful buds.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rain with local Flooding

A few posts back I mentioned our apparent "rainforest conditions," and they certainly have continued. It has been raining almost daily from the last couple weeks of May, until today with no anticipated dry spell forecast anytime soon. Weather data sites have determined May 2015 to be the wettest for Missouri in 120 years with rainfall accumulation between 7.5-10 inches (19-25cm) across the state. The Missouri River in downtown St. Charles has risen significantly in the last two days and has now breached the Lewis & Clark Museum parking lot, as well as the outer banks of Frontier Park. I am amazed how quickly a massive pile-up of drift wood collects around the barge when the river floods. With no end predicted to this thunderstorm weather pattern, we will be having significant summer flooding this year. Some rural farm roads between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers are already impacted, see here .
Joe Pye Weed (foreground)

My garden is bursting with GREEN and blooming. The Joe Pye Weed is four feet tall! Poor Mr. Gnome is nearly lost in the foliage... The rain and steamy 93F/33C temperatures have all the garden plants achieving maximum proportions, unfortunately, that includes the less desirable weedy plants amongst them.

Currently, the soil is so saturated with rain that trees will soon be in danger of toppling over if we get any high winds associated with the remnants of Tropical storm Bill. "Bill" is supposed to arrive about midnight tonight and dump another 3-5 inches (7-12cm) of rain. The riverfront will certainly have more flooding by Sunday. Our local 4th of July fireworks are usually shot from a barge on the river, but Frontier park may not be accessible by that date. We will have to wait and see what develops.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Surprises and art

I found this painting fifteen years ago in a local antique/junk shop. I loved the colors, but what really drew my eye was the expression of light through the mountains, on the road and across the "stick man's" burdened shoulders. This oil painting has hung at the foot of my bed for the last fifteen years and it is the second thing I have seen all those mornings, after glaring at my alarm clock.

Initially, my curiosity had me attempting to research the artist's signature, but I had no luck deciphering it. So, the only other clues to date this painting were the nailed canvas and frame. The frame is hand carved and the beige painted matte is plaster, which suggests the artist framed his own work. I also think the surface of the oil painting has been varnished.This makes me guess early 1900's ? Who knows, but the locale has always felt Italian to me.

Over the years I have made up all sorts of stories about this man and his burden of sticks, some hopeful, others not. Then this wonderful painting, which I still smile at if I study it, faded into the environment of my home. I had no more questions, and I just lived with it... for fifteen years.

Imagine my surprise when I came across this photo in the UK Times Travel section, in an article titled, Summer in the Dolomites, by Sue Lawley, dated 19 February 2013 (the photo is uncredited). I am sitting in bed with my laptop yesterday, and a photograph depicting the location of my painting pops up. Eliminate that split rail fence and I swear I could drop my "stick man" into that photo. How cool is that?


Flushing Brain mud

 I am waxing philosophic, since I have had some uninterrupted quiet time to think. I have long envied individuals who could "get away," taking a big chunk of time to separate from the rigors of daily life and contemplate the world around them. Both Archimedes soaking in his famous "Eureka" bath, and Thoreau in his cabin took the time to slow down and get away, refreshing their minds for new ideas. Smart people taking their time to think...

Unfortunately, in today's busy climate with  instant access to everything, it is easy to forget there is a process to examining an idea, questioning it and then perhaps, mindfully creating something new. I am considering the perspective that we are being mentally buried in the clutter of social stuff, ranging from actual possessions to popular opinion determining how we live, think, act and look. So,
the upside to my twelve weeks hanging out at home is wow! I have gotten my long envied desire, a big chunk of time to separate & contemplate. And knit, read, maybe draw, tidy my room a bit at a time... I had better make a list!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Resting and reading

I am neither bored nor stir crazy yet, and it has been seventeen whole days! The first week I mostly slept and read. School had been exhausting this past semester. Add in some life/work stress combined with surgery and I definitely earned those few days I spent asleep for 12 hours. Intermittently, I'd wake up, read a few pages, then doze off again: recovery in a nutshell. Some of the books I had stockpiled in preparation of  post-op downtime were All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel/ Brett Witter. Both were well written and interesting, a nice combo of fiction and non-fiction echoing the same historical time period.

I am currently totally hooked on the WWII/mid 1940's time frame. Some additional fun reads are the Louise Pearlie mystery series books by Sarah R. Shaber. The series starts with Louise's War which is set in 1942 Washington, D.C., so far there are only four books published.  Shaber's previous series, Dr. Simon Shaw murder mysteries, documents the Pearlie family 1942 back story in the book, Snipe Hunt. I have read this series too, and it is well written, based in Raleigh, NC. I appreciate that Ms. Shaber doesn't seem to need to write a series that continues on forever either; she has left Dr. Shaw on sabbatical after five books to write Louise's War. I appreciate the "quality, not quantity" approach to writing, formula series frankly get too predictable.

This last week I have started to feel like myself again and have been up more. I now have a lovely lime green cast to coordinate with my aluminum walker. The kids have nicknamed me "Skippy" as I negotiate between the kitchen, living room, bedroom and front porch.

I will admit I miss puttering in the garden more than anything, but my kids have been wonderful at assisting me to get my daily dose of the outside.The finch socks and humming bird feeders have been kept full and the lawn mowed. I am itching to do some pruning and weeding, but we have had buckets of rain and the yard is too soft for walker + chair gardening. The flowers and foliage are huge, thriving in virtual rainforest conditions with Missouri humidity.

Friday, May 29, 2015


Emma nurse dog
It has been a week since ankle replacement. I am hopping around the house with an aluminum walker. I have only made it outside to the porch twice, to catch some sun and watch the hummingbirds. Mostly, I have been reading and napping.

Two books by Susan Meissner have been terrific recuperation reads, A Fall of Marigolds, see review link here-
 and then, Secrets of a Charmed Life, reviewed here-  Both books are in paperback and explore historical events, Ellis Island, 9/11 and the London Blitz, while intertwining a believable, well-written storyline in roughly 370 pages.

Weather has been a bit hot and steamy, but there have been frequent thunderstorms to keep the gardens growing. I am a bit antsy not being able to putter in the garden, but from my viewpoint the plants are doing well on their own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Veg garden is in

Well, this is it... the night before ankle replacement surgery. I got most of my "to do" list done. The dogs have gotten their shots and the raised bed gardens are now completely planted! I put in the pre-soaked bean seeds this evening.

The first bed on the left is herbs: Thai basil, Genovese basil, rosemary and cilantro. The middle bed has two red cherry tomato plants and one heirloom yellow pear patio tomato. The far bed near the street, has two self seeded heirloom tomatoes from last year (German pinks I think), the bean seeds and a parsley plant. The bed closest to the driveway (the back of the 'E' bed layout) has three heirloom zucchini squash, and three pepper plants of varying heat, jalapeno to sweet. All the dirt has been turned over and augmented with seaweed compost and topsoil. I had some crushed eggshells left over from last year, so the tomato plants got a healthy dose of calcium before these rainy days.

We have been having unusually cold weather, it is 47F/8C tonight, and there has been a constant drizzle today. Emma and Wendy are wearing their winter coats again. They look pretty adorable and Wendy is definitely not camera shy. Anyway, I'm signing off until next week when I have recovered from post-op pain & adjusted to my non-ambulatory status.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Porch Planter 2015

Last post, I mentioned that I had gotten the porch planter re-planted. This job has also been checked off my pre-surgery "to do" list utilizing my daughter's excellent digging assistance. This stone planter is an annual challenge to beautify, because #1 it is so obvious at the front of the house and #2 it gets variable light. See last year's post here to get a run down of those challenges. I have seriously considered simply filling this blasted planter with rock and calling it a zen garden!

Anyway, the Celadine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) that is planted at the shady end of the planter is doing quite well. This year it had lots of yellow flowers and it has doubled in size... it took a bit of research, but when a plant is placed in the right spot, meaning light and soil requirements, it really pays off.  Last years caladiums were a terrific color boost, so I definitely wanted to repeat them. While I liked the leafy Gryphon begonias planted last year, there were none available at my local plant stores this season.

Since the Celadine Poppy is a perennial, I thought I would like the convenience of repeat performers throughout this site. I chose Coral Bells (Heuchera) to experiment with, since they tolerate partial to full sun, and maintain a tidy mounding culture producing tiny pink or red bell shaped flowers on delicate stalks. This is truly an experiment as I have killed at least four in the yard gardens in past years. A perfect example of disregarding light and soil requirements, resulting in plant sacrifices, never a pretty outcome. So fingers crossed this will be a good fit.

I have never fully explored to the bottom of this planter, it is stone/cement and about 2-1/2 feet deep. I suspect it drains from the bottom because it never becomes a pool after rainstorms. I think the voles can access it as well, from the top or ?underground, because there are tunnels/holes after the winter. Occasionally, there are massive tiny brown ant colonies, as well as a healthy pill bug population. Last year, I turned over the soil and added compost and I think disturbing the soil reduced the ant population and the extra nutrients really benefited the plants. So going on last season's success, I added I bag of compost along with one bag of topsoil, and Juli dug it in.

The final two feet of this planter are in full sun by mid summer, so last year I stuck a mini gnome statue there. Juli loves lilies and since she did the digging, she got a this piece of garden. I have been reluctant to incorporate Asiatic lilies into the yard gardens as they are virus carriers, but this spot is certainly separate and contained. She planted a lovely Stargazer Lily whose blooms are a fragrant delight while sitting on the porch. Altogether, this planter project has turned out even better than last year! Thanks to my kids for their generous help and creative gardening suggestions!!

Friday, May 15, 2015

New Rose Arbor

I am anxiously trying to complete an extensive "to do" list before I am off my feet, post-op ankle surgery. The raised beds are planted with this years veg, the porch planter bed is done, all the balloon flowers are in the ground and I got a bag of gladiola bulbs planted. The irises are blooming and smell wonderful especially at night. On Mother's Day weekend I spotted an early female hummingbird, so I hung up 3 feeders with homemade syrup. The finch feeder sock of thistle seed is up and the Red-Headed finch pairs have been frequent visitors. Today, I saw the first Goldfinch of the season, snacking upside-down on the sock too!

One big project I wanted to complete was to clear out the weedy and crowded plant space in front of the porch planter. Two rogue butterfly bushes had started to grow there, and the one mugo pine was the main vole refuge, as well as having a sawfly infestation; all were slated for removal. My daughter dug and hacked out the medium sized butterfly bushes, but my son's brawn and skills with a pick axe were necessary to remove the pine.

Once those view obstructing shrubs were gone, I could address the climbing red rose I had "temporarily" planted there. This site was initially an interim location, because the poor rose wilted in the bare-root plastic packaging when I forgot to plant it promptly. Several years later (oops), I really had to either move it or give it an adequate support system. Laziness wins and I decided to create an arbor from two 10 ft.-1/2 inch  PVC pipes, 4-36inch pieces of re-bar, and some leftover plastic coated dog fence 36x14 inches. The easiest arbor ever!

I pushed the re-bar into the ground and bent the PVC as I placed the pipe over the foot and a half of exposed re-bar. I hand bent the dog fencing over the top of the curved PVC pipes and attached it with zip-ties. Then I pruned, coerced and forced the rose branches over the arbor and onto the dog fencing; I used zip-ties to affix the rose to the arbor. It took a couple weeks for the rose to recover, but WOW, look at the buds and blooms!

My son wanted a rock and creeping thyme garden, so that is in the works at the base of the arbor. I have to admit the rose looks much happier supported than it did loose. The hummingbirds are also enjoying the feeder I hung from the middle of the arbor. I have one stray branch to secure but it is still a tender new shoot, so I'll wait to zip-tie it to the PVC. The garden tidying continues, but this quick and satisfying chore is done & checked off the "to do" list. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy, happy and Balloons

The last essay of the semester has been submitted!!! I was singing the "happy, happy" song at that moment. My youngest drove me to the local big grocery and we picked up some celebratory sushi for a late lunch. I can't actually dance with joy because of my bum ankle, but I'm dancing on the inside!

We've had two days of heavy rain here, no thunder and no tornadoes. It really has been lovely, I like rain. Grey skies and green foliage, as the garden is loving all this water after a week of sticky 80F/26C temps. The rain barrels are full again too.

I have further celebrated the end of school with a few trips to Lowe's & Home Depot's garden departments. This year Lowe's seems to have the better selection and healthier plants. Kudos to them for stocking Balloon Flowers (Platycodon grandiflorum) at the super reasonable price of $3.98 per six inch pot. I went nuts and bought five! About two or maybe three years ago the voles spent the winter eating the roots of my well established plants, killing them and I have been unable to find any replacements. Plants seem to go out of popularity and with fewer local nurseries, I am stuck shopping at big box stores for the same agri-farm produced selections. Spotting these hearty looking balloon flower plants, was a terrific find. Certainly, when they set those marvelous puffy, blue blooms, they will be immediately snapped up. This photo is from several years ago, when this plant was about three feet tall and loaded with balloons and blooms, pre- vole attack.

Home Depot's garden dept. earns praise for re-ordering the excellent six inch pots of gorgeous caladiums that I have purchased last year and again this year for the front porch planter.  See last years posting here: I brought home several plants for the $3.98 price and plan to combine them with three perennial 2.5 QT pots of Coral Bells (Heuchera) in the planter. The Begonias I companion planted with the caladiums last year don't seem to be available anywhere now. The Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), a Missouri native plant, that is at the shaded end of the planter box has done beautifully, so I am going to try another perennial with the Coral Bells. It is much simpler to fill in the gaps with caladiums than redesign the planter box every year. So tomorrow, I will be having a dirt & fun-filled Mother's Day digging in the yard. Happy Mother's Day to all!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Passing May Day

The semester is almost over! Final exams are this week and I am more than ready to chuck the whole school thing. I won't. This has been such a difficult semester! It is just my frustration from working so hard, and  enduring lots of homework for the "maybe" of a career, on this long, s l o w - p o k e to a degree.

My ankle surgery date is getting closer. I am busy limping around the house and yard trying to get chores done, so there will be an auto-pilot interlude while I am down and out. I am excited that Handyman Todd has gotten the bathroom back together again! Grab bars and hanging a shelf are all that is left to complete the remodel. I am totally loving the bead board, the new vanity, and the delicious paint colors. I kept the old etched glass medicine cabinet that was original to the house, but updated the light fixture to utilize LED bulbs. This new bathroom is a monumental improvement over the original one. It's amazing how spacious this room has become from moving a wall out 12"/30cm!

The garden is starting to green up and set flower buds with the mid 70's heat (24C). This year my columbines are blooming with vigor. I planted a few near the rotting stump under our new gnome a few years ago, but only one survived. I have been shaking seed pods around the gardens for a couple of seasons and this year I discovered a purple and yellow columbine bloom behind the Kerria bush. These columbines seem picky about light, but I think they have started to naturalize. My Nana had a columbine garden that stretched the length of the back of her house, completely filled with these colorful perennials. My few plants are a nod to her memory. I do hope they continue to grow, bloom and adapt to the yard. Simply amazing flowers!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I suspect it's Spring

The weather is suddenly sunny and delightful 74F/23C. The garden is still mostly buried under leaf mulch but the daffodils are blooming and so are the star magnolias. Ah, the sweet perfume of Spring! A garden gnome has been installed over the rotting stump in the front garden, since the old wooden chair I placed there crumbled apart this winter. Perhaps some gnome-y blessings will spread about the yard.

School has been challenging this semester. I feel like I have been writing essays forever! At the end of this semester I will be having surgery on my ankle. I will not be able to walk or do any gardening, but I have recruited interim gardeners (my kids) to hopefully prevent any city citations for weeds. Without attention, even the prettiest gardens become wild, reverting to their natural messy state and become visual irritants to the neighbors. I am trying to simplify the gardening chores early this season by ripping out some undefined areas and redesigning them with a focal purpose. Fingers crossed, we'll see how that goes...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gangs & radicalization

    It continues to amaze me how out of touch our government is with the people. Bureaucrats seem completely freaked out that US teens are "becoming radicalized" and attempting to join ISIS. Why are they surprised? So many young adults are disenfranchised, certainly racism and discrimination are not dead.  Although it seems significant that immigrant children like Hamza Naj Ahmed are attempting to join ISIS, aren't they the most disenfranchised of all? Many young immigrants struggle, straddling the line of trying to fit in and be "American" at school, then splitting their reality by living a foreign culture at home with their parents.Wouldn't it be easier for them to adopt one reality? And that is what ISIS offers... the only requirement is Islam, and a desire to fight for a cause.

    For the non-immigrant youth, what is their motivation? Perhaps, because there are NO JOBS they have a lot of empty time... everyone desires meaningful experiences in their lives. I think instead of creating a new crisis perspective, our bureaucrats and those who have influential positions working with youth should think of ISIS as the newest inner city gang trying to recruit members... it's no different. These kids are just richer; they can afford a passport and plane ticket. This trend among our youth is about finding purpose; not continuing to feel like a failure living at home with their parents or unemployed. Kids who have gone to school, followed the social dictum and then, end up with nothing are not content citizens. ISIS recruits because they reach out online to youth who are searching for themselves, for a chance, an adventure... the opportunity to be someone who is needed, not the nameless kid who is forced to wait for their turn in life.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Quiet times

Well, it has been a bit... School, work and other busyness has kept me from posting. The "outhouse" bathroom now has walls, so it is an actual room again! No fixtures currently, but the plumbing has been corrected and new electric lines are installed. Progress however slow...

I've been hanging out mostly in my bedroom/office, attached to the laptop doing homework. I have created a contemplative ambiance with some flickering votive candles. Two were my Mom's, but the rest are thrift store and estate sale finds for only pocket change. The reflected colors on the wall remind me of the Northern Lights I saw on a trip to Iceland. Add in a nature sounds or piano concerto CD and I have created a writer's sanctuary.

School-wise, I am finding the PR class on effective crisis communication very interesting. Corporate as well as natural disasters evolve differently, but many of the same principles apply across the board making a critical impact upon public perception and resolution of the event. Fascinating stuff!

Right now, there is only a tiny knitting project on the needles, an Easy Cabled Headband. It is a free Ravelry download here . As I mentioned before, it is for my sister in the same Mochi Plus yarn, color #560 using #8 circulars, that I had  previously made her gifted hat. The pattern is easy peasy and although I am not a seed stitch fan, I can handle the three seed stitches on either side of the cable. It should be done soon.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gratitude and moving forward

Another semester at university starts officially Tuesday, but syllabi and assignments have already been made available for my online classes. This has given a positive jolt to my current perception of where I see my life work heading. I am truly looking forward to the stimulation of learning some new material, as well as making forward progress on my degree.

I have been fairly negative lately, since my twice broken right ankle has become painfully degenerated from arthritis. Ultimately, sooner rather than later I will need some orthopedic surgery to regain any sort of normal walking status, and hopefully prevent additional joint damage to my hips or knees from my compensatory hobbling. This is not a life option I anticipated or particularly look forward to, but I have realized how vital walking is to my mental outlook, as well as my physical health.

I am challenging myself daily to express gratitude for the capabilities and resources I am blessed to possess. No small miracles here! How is it so easy to forget the value of a pain-free walk with the dogs, a trip to the grocery or a quick jaunt to the mailbox?  Never again will I forget the simple joy of putting one foot ahead of the other and strolling down the path, through my home or across the yard. I promise.

Handyman Todd is back on the job and the "outhouse" bathroom, viewed in my Christmas post, now has walls. It will soon have electricity, porcelain fixtures and new grab bars; in anticipation of post-surgical disability in my future. So while I might have my low moments... forward progress is being made and hopefully, successful outcomes will result. So, tonight I will read my first chapter of text for this new semester. While a little fearful of all the new expectations and challenges laid before me, I am committed to taking those tentative steps towards a different future.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Je suis Charlie

Touching Paris
Although I had been dreaming of time off without direction or demands before the holidays; I have been wallowing in a glut of directionless hours between college semesters and worrying about my future. Truly, this is a symptom of wealth and ease that marks me as as a privileged person, especially in a world where food & water are scarce commodities for whole populations and the safety of a warm home are luxuries citizens of many countries do without. Not that any of these guilty realizations has made me feel any better, indeed not, simply said my pain garners my attention, because it's the pain I feel. Odd, how inwardly focused I have become! Not that my life concerns are any more or less petty, but like everyone else, the burdens we each bear become the burdens we are intensely interested in lightening.

Unfortunately, the future is never previewed, instead arriving piecemeal, accompanied by whatever shock or awe its newness engenders. We are all unsuspecting victims. French cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo are assassinated... for cartoons. Free speech throughout the world is suddenly in jeopardy or more accurately, free speech in the free world is threatened. This has our attention, for a moment. Let's not forget how unexpectedly privileges or life itself can be eliminated... especially when we move past this initial shock and re-heft our own burdens.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Tentative New Year

The new year has arrived. In my neighborhood, there was much less celebration, in fact the whole holiday season seemed more subdued. Christmas lights have come down or are left dark as dusk falls. I have seen little of my neighbors, even though the weather has been mild, and snowless; it seems like a blizzard of isolation has fallen and we are all waiting...

Gas prices have dropped. Missouri has the lowest cost per gallon in the U.S., yet my neighbors and I continue to stay home. I wonder if this new year will indeed be better than 2014? Perhaps, optimism is wearing thin and we are just waiting to see if there is evidence of a positive change in the economy, our lawmakers and perhaps, the world.