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Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy Stuff--Connection with Neighbors


My happy moment just bloomed a few minutes ago. As I was helping Hubby get the kids loaded and off to school, I saw my neighbors in their front yard. I waved, and so did they. Once my gang was gone, I walked across the street to say hello. It was my first conversation with the man in the baseball cap, although we’ve waved many times. He was watching his two darling nieces, ages one and two, both dressed in pink, the older one trying on adult-sized work boots over her fleece pajamas.


What made this my happy moment is how friendly my neighbor is, and so eager to have a warm connection. It turns out he just moved here from Vietnam. He invited me in for green tea but I had to go because our youngest was still asleep in our house and so we will have tea another time soon.

Most immigrants to America are so grateful to be here in this land of opportunity and freedom. It’s a wonderful reminder to me about how fortunate we are here. It makes me happy to connect with others, including my neighbors. And I’m still relishing my newish title as Ambassador of the Neighborhood.

 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Happy Stuff--Epiphyllum

I’ve been on birth watch for several weeks now. Birth of Epiphyllum blossoms, not a baby. Babies are wonderful, too, of course! But today I’m here to coo over my first Epi blossom of the season.


I was given this Epi plant by Don, a neighbor who loves Epis, owns hundreds of them, and has created hybrids through grafting. Don told me that it would take a few years for my new Epis to produce a lot of blossoms. Yikes. It would be hard to wait but I had no choice. And life got extra busy a few years ago so I was hardly sitting around, waiting to flip calendar pages.

A few months ago I noticed tiny buds popping out of my biggest Epi plant, the one Don gave me. The buds were very small, the size of a grain of rice. But they were there, and I was excited! I watched as they doubled in size, almost overnight. After a month the buds were the size of a grape.



They continued to grow…



After two months some were as long as my thumb.



   
By this week the buds were nearly three months old, and I knew big changes were on the way. I watched each day as the closed peak of petals pushed out further.
 
 
By yesterday I could tell that birth watch was on and I called all the relatives. Just kidding. I know they might not be quite as obsessed as I am with Epi growth. But if you are a lover of plants, the magic moment when the first one blooms is like Christmas morning to a 6-year-old.

This morning was the big day. My first blossom has bloomed, the petals half-opened in a cup of pale pink. They will continue to open in the next day or two. Others will join in, adding to the wonder. There are fifteen buds on this plant, so I’m in for a Spring full of blossoms. I did have to wait three years for this plant to hit its stride, but it’s worth it. I’m enjoying it immensely.

 
 
Gardening is good for the soul in so many ways. And it teaches patience. In our lightening-speed world of 2014, we are addicted to immediate results. We want the fastest available connection to the Internet. We love convenience. We tap our foot impatiently as the microwave takes—gasp!—two whole minutes to heat water. But gardening cannot be rushed. Flowers are the prize for those who wait patiently, who marvel at every slow stage of growth, who understand that this can’t be rushed, and that because we have to wait, we’ll appreciate it so much more when our flowers finally bloom.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Stuff--Artichoke Plant

This is my second Happy Stuff post in two days. It’s too early to say if this makes it a trend or an aberration. But why get sidetracked by definitions? Let’s just go with it.

 
One of the many things I love about participating in a community garden is this: not only do I get to enjoy the surprises my own garden bed produces, but I also get to enjoy surprises that other gardeners planted. Today I checked out someone’s artichoke plant.

(Allow me to add a side note for a minute: I remember the first time I saw an artichoke plant, a few years ago. I had no idea what it was. It looked like a palm tree-in-training with its spiky fronds. When I realized that there was an artichoke growing inside, like a hidden treasure surrounded by a protective moat of leaves, I was shocked! I still marvel that an artichoke requires such a huge plant in order to grow. But hey, I guess the artichoke knows what it’s doing, so who am I to question the size of its plant?!)
 
The wingspan of the plant I saw today was three or four feet, and tucked cozily inside were two artichokes.


It gives me such a high to see things growing...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Happy Stuff: Oranges

Do you have websites you check every single day? I have three. They are all crafty ones that post DIY projects. I haven’t done many of the projects but I LOVE these three sites. The ladies who create these sites feel like my friends, even though I’ve never met them. But they are creative, funny, honest, quirky, and they love sharing stories about their lives online, including mishaps. Boy, that sounds familiar. Anyway, checking out their sites is one of the parts of my day I really love. So much of my day is spent juggling things for my trio of little ones, but a little time checking out creative websites is something just for me. And I need that, sister!

 
One of the sites I love, A Beautiful Mess, recently had a post on something called 100HappyDays.com. It’s a challenge to notice something awesome each day for 100 days, take a photo of it and post it online. The point is to become more tuned in to the great parts of our lives and feel happier. Since I don’t do all the social networking that some people do, I don’t have the accounts in place to do this. But I figured I could do my own version on my blog. (My blog could be described as a collection of essays I write on the things I enjoy or the wacky moments I survive, so maybe I’m already doing my own version of this challenge.)

I think I’ll try my own twist on this idea. I won’t commit to doing it for 100 days in a row because I’d rather start off with the intention of doing it because it’s fun, not because it’s another thing on my already substantial To Do list. So I’ll do it when I can. There are times when I’m really busy racing around and don’t make a point to notice small, cheerful gifts right in front of my nose. So this Happy Stuff collection could be just the thing to help me pause, if just for a minute, to enjoy happy surprises…

Here’s my first one: Oranges

This morning I grabbed three oranges from one of our backyard trees. It’s a juice orange tree, and I’m sorry to say that we don’t often pick and use what it offers. We have a manual juicer, which works fine for squeezing oranges, but I rarely do it. And I wasn’t expecting a few oranges to give my day a boost. But they did! I found three ripe oranges on the tree, washed them, and cut one open. It was really sweet, sweeter than I remembered them tasting before. (Possibly I’d picked them too early in the past. Oops.) The citrus smell, their cheery deep orangey color and their WOW flavor was a really happy surprise. And it did give me a lift on a morning when I felt tired and grouchy. This was easy and free, just like many of the best things in life. So thank you, orange tree. Your blossoms smell great and you gave my Thursday a boost!

 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Do You Like Green Eggs and Ham?

My festive neighbor's house. They have such spirit!
 

Happy St. Patrick's Day, y'all!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Litmus Test

“Mom, what is that?” Our oldest child pointed to the unfamiliar object. This struck me as quite amusing, but I answered the question honestly. “It’s an ironing board. You know that thing I use at home once or twice a year? The iron? Some people use an ironing board with it.” Clearly, I was not one of those people.
 
This conversation occurred last year while we were out of town for a wedding. I’d found the ironing board in the closet of the hotel room. My magenta silk outfit needed a few minutes with the iron. At home I didn’t own an ironing board. I do iron things occasionally, but I just lay the clothes on the bed when I iron them. A life spent bend over the iron is not my idea of…well…a life well spent! So I wear things that don’t need much ironing and I spend my free time doing creative things and I don’t ever pine for ironing opportunities.
 
Having said that, you’ll be shocked to learn that I actually bought an ironing board last year. It was at a garage sale and for $3, it was a no-brainer. Of course, I’ve owned it for nearly a year and I’ve never used it for ironing. Fear not. I’m not trading in my edgy artist ways for a life shackled to the ironing board. I’m currently using it as an art desk while my real art desk is hidden under tons of found objects, awaiting their turn to become pieces of amazing art.
 

Look how this 50s housewife is smiling down at her iron, allegedly fulfilled by hour upon hour of time spent at the ironing board. (I bet she’s actually counting the minutes until she leaves for her belly dancing class!)


I like that the ironing board is a great height when I’m sitting on a stool, and I like that it’s easy to dissemble if I need to, and I love that it doesn’t take up tons of room. Perhaps there’s also a dash of insubordination at work, too. Ironing boards used to take up a lot of housewives’ time in the 1950s.



I love that I’m using the ironing board in a completely different way than it was intended. I use it to make my art, which brings me loads of happiness. Who says an ironing board must be for ironing? I’m thumbing my nose at the notion that a woman’s greatest pleasure is in removing wrinkles from her husband’s shirts.

And there, folks, is your litmus test. If you own an ironing board, is it used in obligation or for fun? You know where I come in on the matter. Life’s too short to waste it on chores. Let’s have fun instead!