Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer's Bounty

Hi-ya. How goes it? This week's post originally ran in August, 2012, with the title Trowel and Error. In case you can't tell by that cutesy title, it's about the joys of gardening in steamy buggy Hot-lanta.


Thought for the day:  When weeding, the best way to make sure you're removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it's a valuable plant.

Are you a gardener... or are you a garden-dreamer, like me?

I mean, I harbor amazing delusions of grandeur while browsing through garden catalogs and piling a cart high with purchases from the local nursery every year.

And then something happens.

I like to call it reality.

Gardens are not made by singing, 'Oh, how beautiful' and sitting in the shade.  [Rudyard Kipling]

Darn it. (I'm really good at sitting in the shade.)

Kipling was a real kill-joy, huh? I do fine getting all the stuff into the ground, and for a little while... just over twenty-three minutes, I think... the garden looks marvelous. Then come these things:

                                                                      Yep, weeds.

The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden.   [Ray D. Everson]

It's a little-known fact, but I'm pretty sure weeds are organized. Not unionized yet, but they're definitely working together. Just think about it. They grow at precisely the rate you pull them out. Yank a weed from one part of your garden, and boing! another one pops up in another part. Really. I've seen it happen.

Even with the whack-a-mole racket weeds have going for them, I don't mind weeding all that much.

At first.

And then something else happens.

I like to call it debilitating heat. In Georgia, that could happen just about any time of the year, but as a rule, by the end of springtime, (which could occur as early as February...) perspiration is pretty much flowing like Niagara Falls around here.

                                                                     I'm talking ...  
Oh, and did I happen to mention our annual summer droughts? And the outdoor watering bans? And whattayaknow? While flowers and vegetables gasp for water, weeds seem to thrive under these conditions.

Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.  [Dave Barry] 

They say hard work doesn't hurt anyone, but at my age, why take chances? I tend to agree with good ol' Tex here:

The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.  [Texas Bix Bender]

Alas, nobody was around who was willing to let me stand around giving orders, so I tempted fate last week and went outside in the early morning (before the heat index hit triple digits) to weed and prune. I know. What a trooper, right?

So I grabbed a rug to protect my dainty little knees, my handy-dandy gloves, hand hoe, clippers, pruners, and trowel, and I was ready to go. Approximately two minutes later, the attack began.

First, the reconnaissance mosquito swooped down to sample the cuisine. Then came the rest of his brigade.

You think weeds are organized? They've got nothing on mosquitoes.

So, I tore into the house to swap shorts for sweat pants and to douse myself in bug spray. Which, I'm pretty sure, the mosquitoes around here actually like. Kinda like a finishing sauce.

But, I eventually managed to finish the job. (Which, of course, could stand to be done all over again now.) For some reason, our front garden is a flipping magnet for wild onions. Pain in the derriere to keep digging them out and digging them out, too. But didja know if you don't dig 'em out, they grow pretty little purple flowers? (ahem)  I may have read that somewhere ... yeah, that's the ticket...

Anyhow, the task gave me plenty of time to hum and think. Like, about editing. Wouldn't it be nice if it were as easy to axe the deadwood from a written work as it is to prune it from a bush? And, watching all those tiny bugs scurrying around, I thought about how tiny we are in comparison to the universe. Suppose we're part of some kind of a cosmic garden, waiting for the Master Gardener to come pull weeds? Then the question becomes: are we the weeds... or the flowers? (Yeah, I was getting a little heat-addled by that time.)

Even so, it kinda made me wonder. Who am to decide which plants should grow and which should go?

Some...  no... most... wildflowers are beautiful.

And Ralph Waldo Emerson, a very wise man, I might add, said, What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.

I think he's absolutely right! So, I may just have to reconsider this whole notion of pulling weeds. Because, if you think about it,

                                                              Dandelions are quite dandy.

(sigh) If I could only grow green stuff in my garden like I can in my refrigerator... [unknown]

                                          Okay, hands up. I give. Time to throw in the trowel.

For now. I have been looking at topiary pictures lately. That just might be the way to go, ya know? Think our neighbors will be impressed?

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

** All images, except the last one, come from morguefile The topiary shot is courtesy of seniorark

Friday, June 23, 2017

Juggling as Fast as I Can

Hi, y'all. I'm not going to take the summer off from blogging, as quite a few others are doing this year, but in order to devote the amount of time I need to edit and polish my WIP, I'm gonna make like a TV network and share (slightly edited) re-runs with you for a while. I know. I HATE reruns on television, and rarely watch them, but I promise to choose posts few, if any, of you will remember, and hopefully, all of you will enjoy. Except for THIS post. This post got a lot of comments, so some of your may remember it, but I think it bears a repeat, anyway. In light of my feeble attempts to juggle writing and blogging, this first post, which originally appeared in August, 2013, as A Fine Balancing Act, strikes me as the perfect place to begin...


Thought for the day:  The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are a wise man. [Euripides]

Balance. It's a noble goal, isn't it? Even for clumsy people like me, who would never aspire to, say, walk across the street on a high wire or juggle chain saws, true balance is achievable. Not juggling for klutzes kinda balance, but balance in the deeper sense of the word. Juggling responsibilities and priorities, and meeting the needs of others, as well as yourself. A judicious use of time and resources.

Then, there's the amazing balancing acts we sometimes see in nature. You may have seen some of them. Like this giant rock that seems to defy the laws of gravity.

And then there's a fella named Michael Grab. Since 2008, he's been doing some amazing rock balancing of his own, much of it in the Boulder, Colorado area. Part spiritual, part therapeutic, part art, he's managed to create some rock structures you've gotta see to believe.

Grab says the most fundamental secret to balancing rocks is to start by finding some kind of a tripod for the rock to stand on

He says every rock has some sort of indentations, varying in size from very small to very large.

These indentations serve as the tripods, which either allow a rock to stand upright...

... or to fit in perfect  balance with other rocks.

By paying close attention to them, he gets a feel for the rocks.

He feels the tiniest clicks as he brings the rocks into contact with each other...

... and their notches mesh.

It's as though he performs a sacred dance with nature...

... putting these rocks in their rightful places, into balanced relationships with other rocks. Creating asymmetrical symmetry. Forging connections between the animate and the inanimate.

Creating one-of-a-kind works of art.

Finding within himself a sense of peace, and experiencing a natural balance within the universe.

He says, Parallel to the physical element of finding tripods, the most fundamental non-physical element is harder to explain through words. In a nutshell, I am referring to meditation, or finding a zero point or silence within yourself. Some balances can apply significant pressure on your mind and your patience. The challenge is overcoming any doubt that may arise.

                                                            Would you like to see him at work? There are many many videos of him posted on Youtube, showing him working his balancing magic all over the world, but most of them are copyrighted, and claim exclusive rights, so if you'd like to see one of them... or a bunch of them... check it out. I'll not infringe on his copyright by sharing it here. However, here is a short clip by another gentleman, just to give you a peek of the master at work. (He really rocks! Oh, shut up. Somebody had to say it, so it might as well be me...)

                                   Amazing stuff, huh? How do your balancing skills... stack up?
                                    Tell ya what. Ain't no way I'm playing Jenga with this dude.

                                                     For more info, see his website.

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Tribute to Fathers

[Hi, y'all. With Father's Day coming up this Sunday, I thought I'd be a lazy slug share a favorite old post with you about... what else? Fathers. When I used to blog five days a week, Friday posts always included a Weird News Stories of the Week feature. Although the news from the original 2011 post may not be new any more, the stories are still plenty weird, so I'm leaving them. (Weird is good, right?)  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.]


Thought for the day:  I never got along with my dad. Kids used to say, "My dad can beat up your dad." I'd say, "Yeah? When?"  [comedian Bill Hicks]

If I remember right, that picture of my father, brother, and me was taken on an Easter Sunday. A long time ago. You know, back in the Dark Ages. We were mostly happy in those days, living in a tiny rental home in a fairly quiet neighborhood, with a decent-sized yard, and some room to roam around us. Things were never quite the same after we left there and moved into a row home with a postage stamp yard, and wall-to-wall people. I often wonder if our lives would have been different, easier maybe, if we'd stayed in what we thought of as the country.

He was a very difficult man with a lot of personal demons, our father, but I guess he did the best he knew how. Now that he's been gone for a number of years, I do my best to remember the good times. Like the years we spent in that home, and the day my mother took that picture. Back in the Dark Ages.

I had another post prepared for today, but in honor of Father's Day, I opted to post something about fathers, instead. The bulk of this post is a re-run of a Father's Day post from 2011, originally titled, In Honor of Toasted Marshmallows, which describes my Smarticus pretty darned well. He can be tough and crusty on the outside... sometimes too tough... but on the inside, he's very sweet and gooey. Both qualities made him a wonderful dad, especially since he had me to balance things out a little. Because he tended to be too hard on our boys, and too easy on our daughter,  I had to be the Enforcer with our daughter, and the Mediator for our sons. (I mean, really, grounding them for life was a tad too much...) Anyhow, he was, and is, a terrific farter father, and I'm pleased to say both of our sons are superior farters fathers, as well. And you know, no matter how tall our kids are, I'm pretty sure they'll always look up to their dad.

This picture was taken quite a few years ago, too, but not in the Dark Ages. Our kids are no longer small enough to climb all over Smarticus, but... our grandchildren are. (Some of 'em, anyway.)

Never raise your hand to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected. [Red Buttons]

There should be a children's song: "If you're happy and you know it, keep it to yourself, and let your dad sleep."  [Jim Gaffigan]

Okay, shall we revisit that old slightly edited post now?


Thought for the day:  Howcum a man can wait patiently for hours on end for a fish to bite, and can wait patiently in the freezing cold for hours on end, waiting for a deer to come by, but can't tolerate so much as a ten minute wait for food in a restaurant ... where it's a sure thing?

You probably wouldn't be surprised to know the highest volume of long distance phone calls always occurs on Mother's Day. Not that there aren't plenty made on Father's Day, too. But most of them are collect. Why is it moms get the thoughtful gifts, while dads can usually count on getting aftershave or yet another tie they'll never wear? And when Father's Day rolls around, why do the kids think it's okay to buy dear old Dad something from the discount bin at the Dollar Store, and what's more, pay for it with change left over from the cash he gave them to buy something really nice for Mother's Day? As Bill Cosby put it, Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.

Just because the phrase Pull my finger is in the lexicon of  fathers worldwide doesn't mean they aren't as sentimental as mothers. Not at all. They just don't show it as easily. Very often, they're like toasted marshmallows: crusty on the outside, and all sweet and mushy on the inside.

In honor of Father's Day, I'd like to share some excerpts with you from an article you may have seen before. Geezers has appeared countless places without attribution, but as best I could discern, it may have been written in 2001 by a West Virginia chaplain by the name of Koren Fae Rawlings:

Geezers are easy to spot. At parades, they're the ones standing a little taller and often saluting when the flag passes by. At sporting events and at ceremonies on national holidays, they're the ones who stand erect and hold their hands over their hearts when the national anthem is played.

If you bump into an old geezer on the sidewalk, he'll apologize. Pass a geezer on the street, and he'll nod, maybe say hello. Geezers trust strangers and are courtly toward women. They hold the door for the next person, and always, when walking, make sure the lady is on the inside.

Geezers have moral courage. They're the ones staring down those making offensive remarks or acting in an offensive manner. Geezers seldom brag unless it's about their grandchildren.

This country needs geezers. We need their decent values and their common sense. We need their breadth of experience, their depth of knowledge and high ideals.

Thank God for all Old Geezers.

And thank God for fathers.

Mark Twain said, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." And Charles Wadsworth said, "By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong."

So give your dad a break. Even if he's not the affectionate sort, and his last hug felt more like a wrestling hold, let him know how much you appreciate him. Because he may not tell you how to live, but he lives, and lets you watch him do it.

To all you fathers, a very happy Father's Day. And to all of you who still have fathers, go ahead ... make him happy.  Pull his finger.

And now, 'tis time for the (ta DA!)

Weirdest News Stories of the Week

Pull my hoof
Cows have taken a bit of heat for the amount of methane they produce, and some countries have even considered imposing a "methane tax" on the people who own them. In 2008, researchers in Argentina hooked cows to the bizarre-looking contraption on the left to collect their methane, quantify it, and ascertain how much it contributed to the country's greenhouse emissions. As it turned out, they contribute quite a bit. Final results indicated that as much as 30% of the country's greenhouse emissions consist of cow farts and burps.

*** Now, the Australian government is taking a hard sniff at camel belches. With an estimated 1.2 million feral camels roaming the outback, each belching approximately one hundred gaseous pounds of methane every year, that racks up to a global warming impact equivalent to 1.1 tons of carbon dioxide. Per camel. The recent legislative proposal would allow sharpshooters to earn carbon credits by killing camels, and then these credits would subsequently be sold to global polluters to offset their own emissions. Bureaucrats are expected to reach a decision on this proposal by the end of the year.

I'd walk a mile for a roll of Tums. [morguefile]

***  The city of Nederland, Colorado, is offering to sell the celebratory rights for ... a dead man. When 89-year-old Bredo Mortoel died, his family decided to preserve his body, in hopes of one day being able to bring him back to life. So his body,  packed in dry ice, resides in an outdoor shed, and for the past ten years, this small mountain town has been celebrating this deceased man on ice with an annual festival, replete with a parade of hearses, frozen salmon tossing, and coffin races. Believe it or not, it's been a very popular festival, but you know how the economy is. The Chamber of Commerce says the festival has simply become too expensive, so they're trying to sell the rights to it, and hope an event company will step up to keep this unusual festival going.

our daughter and her husband

*** Ever wonder what those Scotsmen wear under their kilts? The answer became clear for recent groom Angus McClure, who sat his kilt-clad bottom on his new bride's knee. Unfortunately, his bare and poorly-wiped bottom left a brown "skid mark" on her pristine gown. Let's just say she wasn't at all impressed. In fact, she decked him, and a knock-down, drag-out, free-for-all followed. Police say they've seen nasty wedding party brawls before, but none quite this nasty. Seven people were hauled off to jail. The bride and groom? Once they sobered up, the report is they reconciled, and fortunately, have no memory of the melee. Let's hope no one took pictures.

                                             Have a wonderful Father's Day, y'all.

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Quitting is a No-Win Option

Thought for the day: Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul. [Douglas MacArthur]

[image from Morguefile]
I did it. I wrote those two magical words at the bottom of my WIP, the words that turn writers into conquering heroes and make them feel like marching through the streets with a brass band while cheering fans shower them with tons of chocolate-flavored confetti: THE END!!!

(ahem) Unfortunately, I haven't actually finished writing the book; I just had an irrepressible urge to type those two too-wonderful words... (sigh)

I fully expected to be finished this first draft by now, but my characters are dragging their feet, and the book is running longer than I expected. The light is definitely shining at the end of the tunnel, though, and as best I can tell, it isn't an oncoming train. It's the actual end of the book. Soon. Surely, the THE END will be for real before next month's IWSG post. If not, maybe I should quit writing and take up sky diving.

Right. As you can tell, it's that time of the month again. On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, founded by ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh, blog about the ups and downs of writing. Within this worldwide group of writers resides an endless supply of support and understanding. Here, successes are celebrated, set-backs are commiserated, and the encouragement to keep on keeping on is ever-present.

If you'd like to join this fine group, or if you'd like to follow the links to find other posts, please go HERE

Now then, on to this month's question: Did you ever say 'I quit'? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

Hmmmmph. I'm not a quitter. I might stop doing something for a while, but I'm not a quitter. I categorically refuse to say those words. It's all about attitude.

For example, when I was pregnant with our oldest child, I took a leave of absence from my job at the hospital. I never officially quit... I simply never went back. Seeing's as how we live in a different state and our son is about to turn forty-six, I don't think there's any need to tender a resignation. Therefore... my no-quitting designation is still good.

[image from Morguefile]

When it comes to writing, or any other pursuit, for that matter, I think of my interests as following a pleasant pattern of ebb and flow.  Just because I'm not doing something at this particular moment in my life doesn't mean I've quit doing it for good, or that I'll never do it again. (Who knows? Maybe I'll even take up macrame again someday...) Taking a break from something is not the same thing as quitting. I'm currently enjoying an 8-year break from smoking, but I dare not say I've quit. (Don't wanta jinx myself.)

So, to answer the question, NO, I have never said I quit, and I've never quit writing. It may have been put on the back burner a time or two, but it has never ever been taken off the stove altogether. I mean, I can hold my breath for a little while, too, but that doesn't mean I plan to quit breathing. Not yet, anyway. I still have a book to finish. The next time I write this glorious word at the bottom of my manuscript, it's gonna be for REAL.

[image from morguefile]

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.  


Friday, June 2, 2017

Lessons from a Butterfly

Thought for the day: What a caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly. [Richard Bach]

[image by Leonard Chapel]
Most of us have seen monarch butterflies, but have you ever seen a monarch caterpillar? Its colors are so pretty, it's easy to imagine what a big beautiful butterfly he'll be one day, isn't it?

If he's lucky.

Not all butterflies are.

Time for a story...

Once upon a time, a very well-meaning lady with a loving heart was taking a hike through the woods, when she came upon a butterfly cocoon that was about to open.

"How lovely!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands in delight. "I'll stay and watch."

Breathlessly, she watched as a tiny hole finally appeared in the cocoon, and then for hours, she continued to watch as the butterfly struggled to force its body through that tiny hole.

Then, as though it were too exhausted to continue any longer, the butterfly stopped struggling and just sat in its cocoon, motionless.

"Oh, no," the well-meaning lady with the kind heart said. "I've got to help him!"

So she pulled out her pocketknife and ever-so-carefully enlarged the opening in the cocoon.

Thanks to her help, the exhausted butterfly easily emerged, but its body was small and withered, and its wings were shriveled.

The well-meaning lady with the kind heart continued to watch the butterfly, anxiously waiting for its big beautiful wings to flutter open and expand.

But they never did.

The butterfly lived out his life with a withered body and shriveled wings. Its wings never grew strong enough to support the weight of his body... and he never flew.

See, the struggle to emerge from a cocoon is necessary for a butterfly's development. Squeezing through a tiny opening forces the fluid out of its body and into its wings, making them strong and ready for flight.

Without completing that struggle, the butterfly can't fly.

      You see what I'm getting at? The moral of the story? The lessons to be learned?

Two things. First, before we impose our well-meaning help on another creature or person, we should know that our help is genuinely needed and/or wanted. Sometimes, the kindest thing... and the hardest thing...we can do is to stand by and offer support, while our friend overcomes his challenges on his own. And second, like butterflies, there are times we, too, have to struggle through some really tight spots in our lives. But don't give up, and don't lose heart, because determination in the face of obstacles strengthens us, and conquering those obstacles allows us to fly.

It's still a good thing to offer a lift or welcome resting place to butterflies and our other friends when they need it...

and to enjoy their visits and companionship... even if they do occasionally poop on your head.

In the end, we all... both butterflies and people... want to live up to our potential.

We want to fulfill our destinies... and we want to soar as high as our wings... and our dreams... can take us.

                          Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.