Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dealing With Dandelions

Every spring I spend an inordinate number of hours trying to dig dandelions out of our grassy areas.

I use a dandelion digger I mentioned in a previous blog post...

In fact, it gets so much use, I'm on my second digger - the first wore out!

This year I have mastered a method that seems quicker for me. When I dig out the dandelions, I simply drop them on the grass. After a while I have little piles all over the yard.

I let them wilt all day. Later that evening, I pick them all up. I find that, after drying all day, the dirt doesn't stick to them as much. Then I deposit them into compost and water them regularly so that they decompose more quickly.

I hate the chore, but it does provide me with a steady supply of compost!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday's Outdoor Art Class

These days my Wednesday mornings are spent hunched over flower beds, doing botanical drawings outdoors, as part of Kerri Weller's art class.

Last week we met at a different part of the Experimental Farm, in an area popular for taking wedding pictures.

We saw no wedding parties -  just crews of volunteer gardeners as well as people taking pictures of flowers.

The area also has its share of wildlife: A roaming ground hog kept popping up amid the flowers, then disappearing. But by the time I pulled out my camera, he was gone.

Half way through the morning, we took a coffee break and discussed our sketches.

 Then we grabbed our folding chairs and art bags, hats and sun screen, and headed out in search of a new flower to sketch.

After an hour in the sun, this shady patch of lily of the valley looked appealing.

It's always harder than it looks!

Drawing in a park - a peaceful new way to study and appreciate flowers!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Money Often Costs Too Much

"Money often costs too much."

This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson brought to mind things that money cost in my life...

The biggest thing it cost was time - spending it in ways that weren't really what I wanted to do.

The amazing thing about money is that it can expand or contract, according to our wants. Obviously we all have needs, but our wants usually far exceed them. For a long time, in my early working years, I had very little surplus money to spend on wants. I remember once, after paying my rent and putting aside money for food and other necessities, I realized that I could afford to buy a book - or a blouse that month. I had wanted both.

(I don't remember which I bought!)

It is good to go through tough financial times, if only to practice differentiating between wants and needs. Then when life tricks us into believing our "needs" exceed our budget, we can step back and see the big picture, hopefully realizing it when the money we are after costs too much.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Shades of Purple... and Pink

My front garden is in "stage 2" - turning shades of purple.

The carnations (above and below) are actually pale mauve.

I planted them when I created this front garden bed, and I'm happy to see them still going strong.

The irises (originally from my friend Janet's garden) are also beginning to bloom...

The pink bleeding heart (from my neighbor, Rob's garden) is still in bloom beside them.

These small irises (the first to come out) have finished blooming. Now other varieties are taking their place.

I don't have any lilacs this year. I cut mine back drastically. But they are all around in neighbors' yards.

White flowers stand out in the dark...

But colors also add so much.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Regular Time?... And Place...?

For years I resented having to be up at 6 am and out the door by 7:15... only to return home from work at 4:30 or 5 exhausted... spent! Then I was faced with making supper, washing dishes (or chasing down kids to do it!) throwing a laundry into the washing machine, and after all that... marking. This routine left me little time or energy for things I really wanted to do. Even taking a half-hour walk outdoors was a treat during those busy days!

So after years of that, I'm not a big fan of "routines"... But recently while reading The Rule of Benedict, Joan Chittister's words jump out at me. She is commenting on Benedict's rule that the chapel (or "oratory") be only used for prayer, communal or private. No lounging, chatting or hanging aimlessly around. She then writes:

"Richard Sullivan, a professor of creative writing at Notre Dame University in the 1960s and a writer himself, taught his classes that the two most important physical dimensions of the writing profession were time and space. 'Write every single day at the same time and in the very same place,' he said. 'Whether you have anything to say or not, go there and sit and do nothing, if necessary, until the very act of sitting there at your writer's time in your writer's place releases the writing energy in you and begins to affect you automatically.'"

There are so many things I want to do... Did I accomplish more when my life was more "scheduled"? I'm not sure... (I didn't have a lot of time for non-essential tasks!)

One of my mother's favorite sayings - back in her working days - was: "If you want something done FAST, ask a BUSY person to do it." Her thinking was: Busy people are less likely to waste time...

Maybe, in the areas that I WANT to accomplish more, I do need to schedule a certain time to do it! (Maybe!)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Secrets For a Happy Marriage

I have recently come across several secrets for a happy marriage, so I thought I'd pass them on...

My son sent me this one he found on the internet...

Then I came across this advice by American poet, Ogden Nash. He addressed it to husbands (but I think it is equally useful for wives!):

To keep your marriage brimming, 
With love in the loving cup, 
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up. "A Word to Husbands" in Marriage Lines (1964)

The best advice Terry and I received from friends, early in our marriage, was: Never discuss anything controversial after 10 pm.

At the time, we often reminded each other of this useful precept - to avoid heated arguments when we were both tired. But nowadays it's mostly irrelevant: I am always asleep before 10 pm!

Friday, May 25, 2012

An Amazing Garden Nursery

We recently visited a local garden nursery that is well-known to serious gardeners in the Ottawa area.

I had heard about it...

But this was our first visit.

I could see why it is so popular!

There were dozens of plants for sale, outdoors and in green houses.

I'd guess they have most plants that grow in our climate zone - and a few tropicals as well.

(As Terry commented: They have everything!)

It must be acres large!

(There is even a brook running through the property.)

It was inspiring to see their mix of plants, trees and landscaping ideas.

The layout really helps visualize what the plants will look like at home.

I came looking for one plant - and ended up buying two. I'll definitely be back - to shop and just to look around. (For the first time I wished I had a bigger yard!)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Need the Wisdom of Solomon!

"Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have." These wise words - that I first encountered during my teaching career (in Life's Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.) - changed the way I approached students in my class. Whenever they had poor grades, I tried to give them a dose of hope together with  the "bad news." (This did backfire on me once - when one student thought my encouraging comments indicated his final mark would be an A.)

I am again faced with a situation where I don't want to deprive someone of hope - but I don't want to mislead or lie either.

A few weeks ago, the care team at my mother's assisted-living residence asked me to come in for a "family meeting." After telling me how well my mother was doing, though her memory isn't what it used to be - they pointed out that she would, sooner or later, need more nursing care. Even with her walker, she recently lost her balance a few times. Plans should be in place for that next step... whenever the need arises. She could seriously injure herself and suddenly be wheelchair-bound.

So I have begun the process of getting her on a "waiting list" for a nursing home in my neighborhood. (I'm told that the process can take months...)

Should I tell her? I ask Terry, knowing that she will be upset if she is forced to do something she doesn't want to do. At 92, she has not lost her stubborn independence.

Let the medical professionals give her medical news, he replies. Stay out of it.

I mention my dilemma to a young nurse at church who recently completed her masters degree in geriatrics.

Unless dementia is a factor, I think honesty is always the best policy, she replies... I had to give my grandparents some bad news. I prefaced it by saying, "You're not going to like to hear this, but..."

(So she would recommend being honest with my mother? But then, she is a medical professional...)

Would any mention of her getting worse devoid her of hope? I wonder... She fully expects her walking to improve, viewing her walker as a "temporary" inconvenience, something she has to use until she can walk normally again. Every time I call her to ask her how she is doing, she tells me - with great astonishment - that her arthritic pain hasn't gone away yet...

To be honest? Or to move ahead without telling her what I am doing?

After a lot of thought, I've decided to err on the side of hope. Nobody really knows how long she'll be able to manage on her own with her walker. When the time comes that she can't walk alone, I hope she'll accept that, too. In the meantime, I'll move along with the assessment process without telling her. As I struggle along, each new decision requires the "wisdom of Solomon*" to guide me!

*Solomon, the king who shrewdly determined the real mother of a newborn claimed by two young women, way back before DNA testing. (The "wisest man in the world.")

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thankful for Late Bloomers!

Last week Terry and I visited the tulip beds at Dow's Lake...

It was the end of this year's tulip season.

 I was thankful for late bloomers...

....the few that remained perfect...

... amid flowers that were beginning to wilt.

I was amused by some of the names...

They must have been a magnificent sight in their prime...

So many colors!

 Shapes and heights!

 (Next year I resolve to come earlier!)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

If You Want To LEARN... Start a BLOG!

When I started this blog over three years ago, I had no idea where it would go or what I would write about every day. I also didn't realize how much I would learn, not only from trying to formulate my ideas in writing, but from others responding to what I write...

A while back, I wrote about strange "laundering" instructions that came with my daughter's new Thvm jeans. The accompanying tag said to wash only when absolutely necessary - instead, to freshen them by placing them in a freezer (in a sealed plastic bag) overnight! Why?!! I wondered. Before long the answer came back from the company. In a comment on my blog post they replied: to kill the bacteria that causes bad smell, of course! (Hmmm. Would that also work with shoes?!!)

Another time, I was puzzled by the way some of my peonies looked after the rain. Commenting on my post, a reader informed me that there were two kinds of peonies, single and double. The ones that had flattened were apparently single.

And a few months ago, after writing about my mother's striped HBC blanket, wondering why it only had three stripes when current ones seem to have four, I received a reply (in the form of a comment) from the company historian: Because my mother's is a knock-off, of course!!

(The things you learn when you blog!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's A Squirrel's Life

I often complain about the squirrels in our neighborhood. (They eat tulips... They plant trees in my flower beds!)

But I'm glad they're around!

Some of our neighbors feed them. I don't... (though they are welcome to dig through the compost piles in our yard.)

But they do amaze me with their climbing and jumping... And their antics make me laugh...

... like this little guy drinking water on our shed roof, catching the drips of rain running down.

(A zoo outside my window!)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Work is...

Sometimes I read something that I simply have to share: Esther de Waal commenting on words by Jean Vanier...

" 'Work is love made visible' says Kahlil Gibran, and love is not doing the extraordinary but knowing how to do the ordinary things in life 'tenderly and competently'. I like these words of Jean Vanier because they put everything into perspective. There is nothing idealistic here. But they ask of me warmth and loving attention to what I am doing which prevents me on the one hand of dreaming of an escape into some form of loftier activity and on the other hand draws me back from the frantic and impatient frenzy of over-activity which threatens to overwhelm me..."

(Esther de Waal in Seeking God, pp. 105-6)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Photogenic... CAT

I used to have a ginger cat who had the uncanny knack of sitting on chairs and cushions that complimented her coloring!

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when visiting my daughter.

Her room-mate's cat isn't particularly friendly...

But she always knows how to look her best!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal

On our last trip to Montreal, Terry and I visited the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts) on Sherbrooke Street.

 I wanted to see the colorful (visiting) Lyonel Feininger exhibit...

... but we wandered into other collections as well. 

I did a double-take when I came across this "work of art." I don't know who  created it - but he or she apparently doesn't like RV's... (This one is shot full of arrows!)

There are so many rooms of exhibits, it is impossible to see everything in one visit. I definitely need to come back.

The most memorable part of the building itself is the grand staircase in the oldest part of the museum... (Fortunately we only had to walk down - not up!)