Happy Hydrangea

Last week I bought my first hydrangea (Nikko Blue).

This week I bought all new sheets and rearranged a bedroom just because of the amazing blooms.

I’m doomed. Let the hydrangea addiction begin!

I even hung one to experiment with drying them…

There are worse addictions, right??? (Famous last words!) 

Do you grow hydrangea? If so, what kind and what zone are you located in? I need to learn!

hydrangea

Hydrangea is such a funny word. But man oh man, do they have gorgeous blooms.

I am a houseplant person. Period. I am not a gardener. So it’s with a great deal of fear that I present to you my Nikko Blue hydrangea. I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing, but I hope we can survive together. I even…ugh… joined a group. A hydrangea Facebook group.

I am now a person who joins a specific flower’s Facebook group.

My shade garden keeps getting bigger and bigger this year. And now I’m going to foolishly(??) (…yet to be seen…) try to grow hydrangea in pots on my front porch. (I asked my hydrangea group and they said it’s okay.)

I put the pots on rollers so I can manipulate their sun intake. California sun is brutal!

I love their color and hope I can maintain it. We mixed coffee grounds into the dirt for an extra boost of acidity.

The petals are so beautifully intricate. What a fantastic plant. I see why people work so hard to bring them back every year.

Our front porch now includes sansevieria, hostas, various calatheas, kangaroo paw fern, Japanese Aralia, Chinese evergreen, aloe vera, a white azalea bush, a majesty palm and a Japanese maple tree.

And now some blue hydrangeas.

Surely I’m done adding things now…

Any hydrangea owners out there who can help a girl out with some advice??

the second question

I hesitate to use the word ‘collector’. Many times it conjures up images of crammed shelves filled with wide-eyed porcelain figurines or collectible teacups. There’s nothing wrong with those things, mind you, but they weren’t really my mother’s style.

Let’s just say she enjoyed hearts. Especially unusual hearts. She found them difficult to pass up in antique shops or a good Jones Store department sale. 

As a result, I, too, find myself eyeing knick knack hearts. They are a universal symbol of love. But for me, they are also a nice reminder of my mother.

I wouldn’t call myself a collector either. Unless we talk about people’s stories. I am a sucker for a good story. Most of the books I’ve read over the years that stand out as favorites, are usually an intimately shared memoir or a big sky coming-of-age story. I am a pile of hard rocks when it comes to crying over the things most people find themselves easily weeping about. But give me a good Steve Hartman opening line and I’m a puddle of messy tears.

Collecting people’s stories has taken some practice, especially in current times. We are quick to give answers, many times assuming others do not want to truly hear how we’re doing or what our job is or how many children/grandchildren we have. We have cursory answers that almost always suffice – quick and to the point. I have found, however, the bigger story gets edged out of hiding at the moment of the second question. So how old were you when you started that hobby? Wait a minute, I don’t understand – where did you meet again? Tell me a little more about the town you grew up in…

The second question seems to be the go-ahead. The absolutely-I-want-to-know-more. The open-ended permission to go a little deeper. The whos and the whys and the wheres of a person’s life story are fascinating to me. I collect them covetously and the best part is – they don’t require much dusting.

I bought this wooden heart on the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. As I type that I instinctively think about all she has missed in the last decade. Truthfully though, it was the eight years prior that she really missed out on, Alzheimer’s stealing each moment. I’d like to believe she’s been keeping an eye on the last ten. Mom was a strong woman. In a pinch, she’d be the one you counted on for no hysterics and a calm, steady voice. But her softer side came out when she held her newborn grandchildren or when she read from her red-pencil-underlined Bible. When she gathered with her siblings (the youngest of five children) she unexpectedly fell back into the youngest of the family role, deferring to her older siblings. 

Her tenderness also came through when she let her gaze take a second look at the brass jewelry holder at the store, now etched with her initials. Or the small red heart lapel pin or the antique heart with removable lid (still filled with a few safety pins, a teacher’s milestone pin and some ancillary buttons.) Her subtle tenderness came through where words sometimes failed her. 

In a time of societal disconnectedness, ask the second question. It will take more time and it might get lengthy or circuitous in nature, but it will lead the teller of the story to a soft remembrance and you to a better understanding of their life and your expansive capacity to share in it.

Where did you get that wooden heart decor? Why did you choose that particular one? Everyone has a section of their life story they’re waiting to make known. Be on the receiving end of that gift. 

just a tweak

We have the world’s smallest hall bathroom. When my family came to visit us last year I told them to be sure to use the bathroom on the airplane before they got off because it’s the biggest bathroom they’d see in the next week.

The truth is though, it’s perfectly okay for us. We have a second bathroom in the main bedroom so this hall bathroom serves its purpose just fine. No walls needing to be knocked out.

But I did want to do a bit of tweaking recently. Change it up a bit. In the ‘tweaking’ process we found The Greatest Spray Paint Known to Humanity (primer and paint in one.)

Hyperbole, perhaps, but not by much.

(Quick note: this is NOT a paid endorsement or sponsorship. I’m merely passing along some things we’ve used and liked.)

Here’s a quick picture of our bathroom when we moved in:

Not long after moving in we put up a different mirror and light fixture. We took off the shower doors in lieu of a shower curtain. Small, simple changes.

But then I fell in love with a faucet and we tweaked things again a few weeks ago. In the process we took the perfectly fine, brushed-silver knobs off the vanity as well as the bronzed door knobs on the bathroom door and sprayed them with The Greatest Spray Paint Known to Humanity (… there should be Stars Wars-level music that occurs every time I write that *only slightly* exaggerated phrase…) It’s been about a month now and the finish is still looking solid.

Scott installed the new faucet. I am DEEPLY thankful Scott is so handy around the house (the project doer to my project dreamer) and I also find it fun to learn new cuss words every time he gets knee-deep into the process. 

And voila!, some small changes for a small tweak-of-a-look in the world’s smallest bathroom.

Truth be told, I have a number of these wooden pegs around the house – I love them! And they’re very easy for Scott to make. I also love these amber pump bottles. I have one in the kitchen too.

Do we need new flooring? Sure. Am I DYING for it? Nah. Sometime…eventually. Maybe. Meanwhile, I am loving the Navajo-looking towel peg, jet black sink faucet with a ‘raining’ water spout, the vase of dried weeds that I snagged from the WELCOME TO NAPA VALLEY sign off the road when family was here last year, and mostly, the discovery of a new spray paint that, if you’re sitting still too long I will give you a once over too. It’s my new go-to paint!

The toilet paper holder has a shelf on top for your phone. (ewwwww…but yay!) I wonder if President Trump has one of these??? 

I mean just LOOK at that handle?! Gorgeous, no??!

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That water spout. I feel like it’s a small bathroom in a Tibetan monastery in a remote, hillside jungle where monks say their morning prayers while…wait. Surely monks don’t do that second part. The number two part.

This has suddenly gotten super weird.

 

A bright, sunny little bathroom. Making a home wherever you are. Being finished would be too boring; it’s the tweaking and settling in that’s the fun part.

Beautifully Mundane

It is early morning and I start another day. Tilly has an amazing internal alarm clock that insists on no more sleeping past 5:30am. Sometimes, it’s 5:33am.

I would love to be one of those people that wakes up pleasantly, stretches and thanks the Lord for a new day. I am not. I would like to blame the fact that I am not a morning person on the idea that I am, instead, a nighttime person. But the truth is I am neither. It takes me a little bit to gear up each morning and it takes me a bit to wind down each evening. I have come to except this as a part of who I am.

My concern about the world, the nation, my family, and my own personal place in life, doesn’t need to wind up or wind down. Those concerns exist at a pretty high level all the time. And so I find myself asking a lot lately, what is my thing to do?

It was in that mindframe that I ran across this quotation. It is not a quote that will change the world. It is not as quote that will eradicate racism. It is not a quote that will cure diseases. But it is a quote for just the next hour.

Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you were told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next. – St. Teresa of Calcutta

I met a new neighbor yesterday. Everyone walks early to beat the heat that is sure to set in mid-morning. From a safe distance we chatted for a minute, and I found out she lives about four doors down from me. Her parting words to were, “I need more neighbors like you.”

Unlike me, she was obviously athletic, tall, a bit younger, and our most obvious difference was that she was Black. I’ve never seen her before, but enjoyed our quick interaction.

There are big personalities doing huge and wonderous things in our nation right now. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, underutilized, and unable to compete with that level of energy and strength.

And so I will take St. Teresa’s words and simply wash the dish, read the book, text a friend, fill Haddie and Tilly’s water dishes with fresh water, deadhead the petunias, and stop for a minute on a walk to talk with a neighbor.

Small. Simple. Mundane.

Chipping away at the problem, one dish at a time…

Tilly’s First Tide

Vacationing without vacationing seems to be our rallying cry this summer. Keeping things local, daytrips, and ‘cheap entertainment’. Like so many of you, COVID has left its mark on many. We continue to be grateful, however. For health and the health of our extended family as well.

And, of course, for Tilly and all of her unadulterated joy. It is her one and only goal in life: to play.

We thought it was time to venture out and introduce her to the Pacific Ocean for her four month birthday. She’s 16 weeks old and we have had her for exactly half of those weeks. She’s changed and grown in a million ways! (And literally grown. When we got her she was 6.3 lbs and is now 26.8 lbs!)

The beaches were full, but nothing like what you see on tv. People were broadly spaced and many wore masks. Bodega Bay is a more liberally-minded area of Northern California so it was nice to step into their heightened concern for public well-being and not feel like the odd man out like we do sometimes in the Sacramento suburbs.

It felt so good to hear the waves and smell the salty water. Driving through the mighty pine trees was also filled with the undeniable scent of fresh pine in the air.

Tilly loved the water. No surprise. But what she was mostly interested in were the other dogs and people! She is a quarantine puppy so she’s been severely people-limited. I’m not sure how socialization will go in the future, but she seems to be endlessly curious about all these potential playmates!

She ran Scott up and down the incoming waves!

She was a mess when it was done, though! Her curly hair was not quite curled right since it was naturally blow-dried in the ocean breeze.

We ate in town – crab and fish. This town is known for their crabbing and oysters. Someday Scott plans on doing some crab catching at the cove – hopefully with a fish-loving dog in tow.

We also ran across this crazy flower. I don’t know what kind of flower or plant it is. Seems like it would be on a cactus but I don’t think that’s what it was. The bloom was as big as a dinner plate.

What a day! Admittedly, it was a lot more stressful than if it had just been the two of us, but we were excited to introduce Tilly to the ocean and were thrilled that she loved it!

Here are a number of videos of her first time experience…

 

It was slated to be a hot day in Sacramento (dry heat or not, 107 is HOT!), so we did the only logical thing and headed to the shore. The sun was high but it was 66 degrees of pure heaven.

The Call of the Bells

The sound of a bell is said to disengage our mind from the onslaught of thoughts and ideas and stimuli that is constantly grabbing our attention and time. The bell is a symbol of peace and freedom. Freedom from all that is twisting our minds, the bell sound ushers us into a place where we can imagine a more peaceful existence for us as well as for others. Bell ringing during prayer is to help snap us back into the present moment, controlling the ever-wandering mind and to focus us on God’s love and presence.

As we march into June, my mind is a riotous place, as I am sure you are also experiencing much dissonance and noise. Just like the riots in the streets, my thoughts frantically race. Burning down old, useless habits while also lifting up values and beliefs that are true and proven. How can I make a change? What do I need to say publicly? Who am I and what can I do in the midst of all this upheaval and needed (although painful) cultural growth?

I don’t have the answer to any of those internal questions yet but my thoughts have started to stumble over themselves in a rush to get out and get active. Seeing various sides of an issue can be an asset and it can be dangerously debilitating. My gut is telling me to slow down. To stop a minute. To gather my incoherent thoughts into a pile to sort through when I am in a clearer state of mind. That first and foremost I need to look at the basics. Go back to the basics.

The Church and all of its varying denominations have gotten things wrong many times. They have committed atrocities (forthrightly and passively) that are horrific in the name of God and their falsely inerrant rules and manuals. And so it is with hesitation that I say to myself, much less publicly, that there is truth and love and forgiveness and grace and humility when living and following God’s message of love and divinity. The one-on-one relationship is what I’m speaking about. Not the relationship through the hallowed halls of denominations or spiritual leaders, but the true experience of knowing and serving the Heavenly Father alone. Back to the basics. I fully believe He is in charge. He is capable of bringing about social and racial unification through the hands and feet of those He has placed on the earth. He is also capable of creating minds so scientifically brilliant that a cure for COVID-19 and other deadly diseases can be amended and eventually eradicated. I believe this. What is my place in your plan, Lord? 

Meanwhile, I hear the bell calling me to stop. To take deep breaths. Breathe in through my nose, expanding my lungs to their fullest. Hold the breath for a few seconds. Then blow out through my mouth with force and purpose, emptying my lungs and detoxifying my body and mind. Did you know that after five deep breaths like this your body will switch out of it’s fight or flight mode? That the oxygen signals to your body that you are no longer in danger? 

There is work to be done, personally and societally. But for myself, I must first quiet down. I must stop aimlessly running and completely stop. In those quiet moments I will find direction and purpose. I will find answers and creative ideas. The rioting in my mind must stop. I must first connect my feeble and stumbling thoughts to a mighty and limitless God. 

I am listening to the bells. Hearing their reminder to stop and listen and breathe. In the Catholic and other liturgical churches, they ring the church bells three times a day to summon the faithful to recite the Lord’s Prayer. 

…Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day…

He hears our cries. He sees our handmade signs and our protests and our anguish and our loss. He is equipping an army to serve in innumerable ways. Scientists and activists and peacemakers and writers and historians and neighbors and friends. The pot has been vigorously stirred and we are here, living in these days, for a reason and a purpose. We will do it wrong; say the wrong things. We will trip and perhaps even fall hard at times. But the bells are ringing. We must stop and listen. Get our minds in the right place and our hearts recalibrated before our feet start out in movement again. 

You are loved, my dear reader. Find a moment today…slight as it may be…to experience the quiet. To see unexpected beauty. To breathe deeply. To hear the bells. 

GHOST by Jason Reynolds

I miss Castle.

I realize this isn’t something I need to hide (anymore.) But you have to understand, I started this secret habit back before it was cool.

I was a full-fledged adult with full-fledged middle school and high school children when Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants first came out. I hid in my bedroom and read every book. I was deeply invested in each character.

Hi. My name is Greta. I love to read memoirs and crime and history and fiction and non-fiction and……YA. Yes, I read young adult novels.

(Once a trend becomes acceptable and popular, it’s hard to break the habit of hiding your secrets!)

The main character in this YA book is Castle Cranshawl (aka: ‘Ghost’.) The narrative is from his own perspective as a middle schooler from a low income home. Sort of by accident, he finds himself learning a new sport: running track. What started as a competition between two students ended with an Olympic coach immediately recognizing Castle’s natural talent as a runner. As a reader, you are instantly on Jamal’s side and cheering for his new passion. If I could sit in the bleachers at one of his events, I would!

GHOST, by Jason Reynolds (a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature), draws you in quickly to Castle’s world while also addressing subjects like social inequality, an abusive parent, bullying, a hard-working mom, mentoring and what it’s like to be a Black kid from public housing learning to trust adults and even harder, his fellow track competitors. Sure – he’s got natural talent as a runner. But will his anger trip him up?

I wholeheartedly recommend this for your young reader. It’s uplifting and told from a first person’s perspective. Great conversation starters for your kids or students.

But I warn you, you’ll miss Castle, too, once the book is through. Lucky for us, however, GHOST is the first in a Track Series of 4 books.

Castle loves sunflower seeds. Readers will love Castle.