A step outside my comfort zone

NietscheQuoteAs a member of the Arkansas Women Bloggers, I get opportunities to do things I’m not always comfortable with. I actually seek out opportunities to step outside my comfort zone, because I think it’s the only way to grow.

Staying comfortable and lazy is the easy way out, my friends.

Today, we women were given the opportunity to share our opinions with a marketing group that hires some of our bloggers, and the topic was flowers (specifically, buying from big retailers).

On the last page of the survey was an opportunity to leave an audio or video clip of our opinions. Well, I wasn’t wearing makeup, and I will go only so far outside of my “zone” on a Saturday morning with only one cup of coffee, so I opted for audio only.

I was awkward and rambly, and the first take had a lot of “um’s,” so I recorded it again without so many um’s (I think). My goal is to be able to do these things without 10 “takes.” (Recovering perfectionist, remember?)

Here it is, my friends, followed by a request and a challenge:

  1. Tell me what you think. Is there hope for me as an internationally renowned speaker? (Just kidding, but I do want your critique. KEEP IN MIND: This is not a professional gig; I was not trying to be “perfect”; I was trying to be real.)
  2. Do something today that takes you outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be huge; just do something.

Also, have I got a deal on some nandinas! If you’re interested (I have several), leave a comment here or call, text or email me. Keep in mind: At this price (free), you’ll have to help me dig them up. 🙂

Next up for me: Download the Periscope app, which those blogger chicks have been talking about lately but I’ve been reluctant to try. (We’re even having a workshop on it at Arkansas Women Bloggers University next month!). Another step outside the “zone.”

When today is over, report back. What did you do that stretched you even just a weensy bit?

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Surprised by lilies

Someone planted lilies in my flower bed while I wasn’t looking.

A few minutes ago, I went out to water the flowers on the front porch, and when I was finished I looked down at the flower bed below and could not believe my eyes.

Two beautiful, pale pink lilies were standing tall next to the nandinas. We left town Thursday morning and didn’t return until Sunday night, so I’m not sure when these beauties sprouted. (Mom watered for me a couple of times while we were gone, but she obviously didn’t see them.)

This was the best photo I could take of my delicate new friends. The rest of the shots are quite foggy; a huge humidity pod has taken over the South, and my camera lens is one of its more sensitive victims. When the temp reaches more than 100 degrees and the humidity is, like, a zillion percent, what chance does a cold little piece of glass have when it meets up with the big bad, moist hot air outside? I just could not keep that foggy lens clear while I took pictures, so I decided to take some through the fog. Those will be known as the “art” shots, although you probably will never see them here because they are SO foggy.

I try not to complain too much about the weather, but I have done my share of whining this year. The humidity makes me cranky. I LOVE our new home in Batesville, but I’ve spent a lot more time in the yard here than I had at the North Little Rock house the past couple of summers. This means more hair washing (sweaty, yucky hair), more showers, more mosquito bites – but in the end, more joy, too.

Have I mentioned I love digging in the dirt? Why, I believe I have mentioned it a couple of times (click here and  here to see my older posts about flowers and gardening).

It’s still true.

Gardening is one of life’s profound and simple pleasures, and if a little humidity (and by that you know I mean a LOT of humidity) is the price I have to pay, it’s worth it.

It’s worth the mosquito bites, the ant hills, the chipped fingernails – even the sweat trickling down places you shouldn’t mention in public.

And every once in a while you get a sweet surprise.

Pale pink lilies.

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Random thoughts 09/12/09

I got e-mail from my cousin Teri tonight, and she mentioned that she still checks my blog for news occasionally. I’m surprised anyone still checks, because I haven’t been posting much lately, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time to devote to one particular subject.

I’ve had a lot of ideas but none that could be summed up briefly in a post that wouldn’t put you to sleep. So tonight I’m just going to share snippets of what’s been going on in and around me lately:

  • My good friend Lynn’s husband, Doug, died this week. He was only 41 and left behind a wonderful wife and two kids, Doug and Jake. They’re still in shock; pray for them. (Lynn’s mom died last year, so this must be doubly devastating for her.) Lynn and Doug would have celebrated 19 years of marriage next month. Bruce and I had only just met Doug six months ago, when Jacob was in the state spelling bee (he took 7th place). Bruce had met Lynn only once – at Dad’s funeral in 1997. But when we got together for lunch after the spelling bee, we all hit it off, especially Bruce and the kids. The boys are very smart, and it was obvious their dad was very proud of them.
  • Two couples from my church family lost sons this week. One died in a car wreck, and I’m not sure about the other, as that family had begun attending Fellowship in Little Rock and I had lost track of them. Losing a child comes with its own special kind of pain – pain that I can’t even imagine. Pray for the Holaways and the Carltons. Another friend from church lost a sister. Pray for the Palmers.
  • My high school typing teacher, Mrs. Seibert, died this morning. She was a unique character and well loved by her students. If you were on her good side on a particular day, you were a “dumplin’,” but if you messed up you were a “donkey.” No matter which name she called you, you knew it was a term of endearment. I can still hear the way she said it, in that throaty voice with a Southern twang. Click here to read a tale one former BHS student told about Mrs. Seibert last year. (You’ll have to scroll down a bit to find his March 12, 2008, post.)
  • We had to pony up $2,100 on car repairs this week, and the guy who fixed it recommended another repair that will cost at least a few hundred more. ARRGH! On the bright side, this was the first major repair we’ve had to have done on this car, which is eight years old (we’ve owned it for three). And a repair bill sure beats monthly car payments.
  • I haven’t posted about this because life was too hectic at the time, but I started working on a second degree this summer. My hope is to get a bachelor’s degree, or at least an associate’s, in business (so I can find a job in Batesville and we can be near my mom, brother and lots of other family). I took Accounting I at the local community college, and I enrolled in Accounting II but had to withdraw the first week of classes because …
  • In early August I started experiencing some heart problems related to my October 2008 diagnosis of mitral valve prolapse. They strapped a bunch of electrodes on me for 24 hours of EKG monitoring, but that didn’t tell them enough, so now I have a monitor that I keep with me for 30 days and record any “event” that I deem significant. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you consider that they charged me more than $900 for it the minute it was in my possession), I stopped having the major pounding episodes within 24 hours of getting the 30-day monitor. I still have a couple of weeks to go, but the worries have stopped. All my “episodes” the past two weeks have been mild – no worse than the usual ones I’ve been having for a long time. I think most of the recent symptoms were stress related, partly because …
  • Bruce has been fighting a urinary tract infection and prostatitis for the past couple of months. We spent a few hours in the ER on July 3 (because it was a Friday before a holiday weekend and all his doctors’ offices were closed) after his temperature hit 103. He’s been taking antibiotics and another new drug (new to us) ever since. He’s been having to give blood and urine samples every couple of weeks.
  • One of Bruce’s maintenance meds, Cimzia, may soon become a thing of the past for us. We had been getting it at no charge because after he lost his job our income plummeted and we were considered a charity case. Now that he has started drawing Social Security, the drug company may drop us from the program. But even though our income has gone up a bit, we won’t be able to afford the once-a-month injections, which cost $1,800 (yes, $1,800 for one shot in the stomach once a month!).

I guess that’s enough depressing news. What’s something cheerful I can tell you? Um …

  • I’ve been baking again. That makes me happy! 🙂 (I have to tell you, I feel a little guilty about the happy thoughts, in light of all the sad news around me this week.)
  • Bruce’s birthday is Tuesday (9/15). He’ll be 50! Mom, J.T. and I pitched in and got him a 12-string guitar. He’d been wanting one for a long time, and we gave it to him early. He’s been so happy playing that thing; he has played it just about every day since he got it. And I found the perfect T-shirt to go with it. It has a little stick man playing the guitar and smiling hugely, and it says “Life is good.” The shirt came in just one color: green, which is Bruce’s fave. And the skinny little stick man looks just like him!
  • On the recommendation of my cousin Pam, I checked out a great book from the library: “Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces.” It’s the sequel to “Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens.” It has made me start thinking about growing plants (both flowers and vegetables) that I’ve never grown before. I went to the local garden center first thing this morning and just walked around and took notes, then I went to the library and checked out some gardening encyclopedias and I came home and started doing some Internet research. Oh, but before that I bought a couple of pretty pots and a couple of new mums. I bought a pretty little pot and a little bronze-colored mum for the kitchen, and it looks so sweet in there, because …
  • We got new kitchen counter tops this summer. Yes, after 10 years of looking at those 1972 green counter tops that we had been planning to replace ever since we bought the house, we finally had the money to do it, because …
  • We refinanced the mortgage and used a little bit of the equity to make a few home improvements. We not only replaced the counter tops, we bought paint. Bruce is painting the kitchen cabinets white (before-and-after photos to come, but not until it’s all finished and beautiful), and we painted the laundry room, because …
  • We got new linoleum downstairs in the laundry room, spare bathroom and hallway. Maybe I’ll post before-and-after pictures of the laundry room when I’m not so tired. It looks great down there, too. The old flooring was also from 1972 (gold and dirty). The laundry room was yellow, and now it’s blue (my favorite color) and white, and it looks so clean and bright. I replaced the really old curtains with a nice, crisp white pair. I love it!
  • Our women’s group at church is starting a new Beth Moore Bible study on Monday. I’m so excited, because it’s about my favorite book of the Bible: Esther. The last Beth Moore study I got to participate in was on Daniel, and it was awesome! I can’t wait to dive into “Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman.”

And that is where I’m going to end this post – on a happy, positive note. Because, despite all the hard things that have happened this year, I know I can still put my trust in the One who said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

God is good.

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Random thoughts

My fans (all three of you people who read my blog) have been admonishing me to publish something. I haven’t posted in a while, but not for lack of wanting to. I’ve just been extremely laz — err, busy.

So, while I wait for my mom’s tax return to finish printing, I’ll grace you with some of the fascinating things I have been doing, thinking or saying lately:

  • After two weeks of working on it in spurts, I have finally finished Mom’s tax return. No, you cannot borrow money from her. Because she helped her children so much last year, there is nothing left to loan. Thanks, Mom. We owe you.
  • I chopped off my fingernails the other day to get better at the little game on my new cell phone that I am obsessed with (the game, not the phone), and it didn’t make one bit of difference. Even with nails cut to the nub, I am still pitiful at batting a little ball with a paddle at a bunch of electronic bricks.
  • I make up little songs, sometimes to amuse Bruce, sometimes to amuse myself. Frequently these little ditties are about the dogs. Almost all of them are about what I happen to be doing at the time I sing them. If Bruce isn’t amused, he doesn’t let me know it. He makes up random funny songs, too. We’re weird together.
  • I would love to be in a musical. Like South Pacific, The Music Man, Oklahoma! or my favorite, Camelot. Or how about The Sound of Music II: Suzl, the Forgotten von Trapp? I would be great in that! Not that I can sing.
  • Although Saturday night was an exception (I went to bed at 7:30), I have been staying up until nearly 10:30 lately! (I don’t think I’ve adjusted to daylight saving time yet.) Still, unless you’re my mother, my brother or my husband, or you’re bleeding from both eyes, don’t call me after 9 p.m., even on weekends. I will be mad at you.
  • It’s spring! And I pulled weeds this weekend (both days). And when I got tired of pulling the little suckers, there were still a BUNCH of them left. Today after I got tired and decided not to pull any more weeds, two neighbor boys rode their bikes up to my driveway and asked me if I had any work for them. Now I’m $10 poorer, but my rose bed looks a lot better. They want to come and mow the lawn in a few days. I think I’ll let them. (Note to self: Restock the Popsicle stash.)
  • I LOVE seeing kids take some initiative and get out and earn some money instead of sitting on their bee-hinds in front of the TV or a computer.
  • The dogs finally got baths today. This hadn’t happened since (don’t tell anyone) November. Salsa didn’t like it, but she didn’t bite me once!
  • My friend Lynn, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago (yikes, it’s been nearly three months!), is going to share the Basket-A-Month with me this year. Next weekend is the pickup. SPRING VEGETABLES! FARM-FRESH EGGS, HOMEMADE PASTA! SOURDOUGH BREAD! I’M YELLING BECAUSE I’M DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY!!!!! And Lynn said she’d bring me some of her asparagus and a couple of good recipes. Double happiness!
  • Baseball season is almost upon us, and I’m thinking of Travelers and sunshine. And hot dogs, which absolutely must be consumed at baseball games, no matter what.
  • I’m reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which I started reading in college but never finished. My favorite journalism professor recommended it, although it was not required reading. I didn’t do a lot of extracurricular reading in college. I was too busy with the school newspaper and reading for classes. But I’m enjoying this book once again, and I’m determined to finish it this time.
  • I have new flip-flops. They’re black. Well, they’re sort of brown now, because of the weed-pulling.
  • I’m supposed to be making a blackberry-jam cake for my neighbor, who’s going to pay me for it, but she didn’t give me a deadline and I keep putting it off. It’s the pressure. She had one at a friend’s out of town, and it was to-die-for delicious, and I’ve had to Google to find a recipe that seems to approximate what she had. So, pressure. Which makes me procrastinate.
  • More pressure: My church is doing a 25th-anniversary cookbook, and I’m supposed to provide a recipe for my “signature” dish, and I can’t decide whether to share my recipe for carrot cake, which I make money from, or be selfish and keep it to myself. My other cake recipe that gets rave reviews is from Paula Deen, and I want to make sure we won’t be violating any copyrights before I share it. It’s called White Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Filling. It’s lick-the-bottom-of-the-pan good. I don’t think I’ve shared photos of it that I took when I was making business cards year before last. So let’s end this on a happy foodnote:


Click the comment button to share some of your own random thoughts.

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The power of a flower

hydrangea in June 2007

I have always loved flowers but never appreciated them to the extent I appreciate them now until I became a gardener in the spring of 1995, a few months after I bought my first little house.

I had just moved back to Arkansas from California, where I shared a house with a woman who hired people to landscape her yard, clean the house and tend the pool (I always secretly enjoyed cleaning the pool myself, but once a week a guy she paid would come and add chemicals and make sure the skimmer was working). Someone mowed, someone edged, someone pulled weeds – things I always hated doing when I was a teenager (except for the riding lawnmower – that part was fun. But my dad’s version of an edger, at least in those days, was a pair of garden shears. Oy!). And I was glad I didn’t have to do those things at the house I shared with my roommate.

So I never knew much about flowers except that they were pretty. I knew that my grandmother had a green thumb and my mother did not. I knew that my few attempts at planting seeds resulted in disappointments. Because the other thing I knew was that you couldn’t merely plant them and forget about them – at least with most flowers. I planted zinnias once when I was a little girl in California, and I have absolutely no memory that anything ever came up. Had I lived in Arkansas then, close to my grandmother, that little seed packet might have produced different results.

But, just like I wished in regard to quilting after Nanny died, I wished I had asked her for her gardening secrets and techniques (I have no doubt many of them would be different from what you see in books, on the Internet and on HGTV today). Or asked my dad about growing tomatoes, or how, when I would point to a tree of any kind, he could tell me exactly what it was.

So, in 1995, I began acquainting myself with gardening. I read and read, asked questions of other enthusiasts and paid attention when people talked about it. I learned quite a bit, although there is still much to learn.

And my appreciation for plant life has grown. I no longer appreciate a specimen merely for its beauty, but for its hardiness, its fragility, its complexity. I love the names of flowers, both the botanical and the common names. I love the colors, textures and varieties. I love the smell of dirt, the feel of it under my fingernails.

I love pulling weeds.

And over the years I have grown to love hydrangeas more and more. So when my mother sold the house I grew up in, after she could no longer bear to stay there after Dad died, I knew I wanted to take with me part of the hydrangea that grew in the front flower bed.

I had watched my dad spend countless hours taking our yard, in 1973, from a lumpy, scraggly, sloped lot to a lush, green, squirrel’s paradise. He landscaped, he planted and he watered. He established pine trees along the property lines and hung birdhouses. The first year we were there, he planted a large garden (he made my brother and me pick the large rocks out of the soil to prepare it, although J.T. threw more rocks at me than he did onto the pile!). When the weather was warm and he wasn’t at work, Dad was outside, enjoying God’s creation and tending to our little corner of it.

After I grew up and became a homeowner, Dad told me I should get a cutting of the hydrangea to plant at my own little house, after the heat of summer had passed. But I never got around to it.

So, after he died in December 1997 and Mom sold the house a few years later, she asked the new owners if we could take a hydrangea cutting with us. They said sure.

But it was April, and I wanted to wait until September or so. Then, after we got Mom settled in at her new little house and life got back to normal, the hydrangea plans got pushed aside by all the other clutter in my mind.

When I finally remembered, and drove back by the old house, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The hydrangea – this beautiful lush plant that had lasted so many years with so little tending – was gone.

Gone. Dug up. Chopped down.


(That last description is unfair, I know. The hydrangea – indeed, the land itself – didn’t mean the same to them as it meant to me. To them, it was just a flower. But how could such a beautiful flower be just a flower?)

So in 2002, when Dad’s brother Tom died, I got a second chance.

After the funeral, my aunt offered me one of the potted flowers that had been taken back to the house. I was so honored that she invited me to take one.

I chose the hydrangea.

I brought it home and planted it in the back yard, on the north side of the house, because my mom’s (or should I say Dad’s?) hydrangea was on the north side of our house, and it seemed to do fine even though no one ever seemed to tend it.

Each year with this new hydrangea, this one that seemed to rise out of the ashes of my disappointment, I have looked forward to its beautiful blossoms.

And every spring as I look at it, I think of Dad and Uncle Tom, who will never know how much their hydrangeas have meant to me.

For most of the year I would forget about the bush and be surprised when, one day without warning, it would stun me with its beauty. I haven’t deserved how well it has turned out; I have never tended the back flower bed like I have the front ones.

And I knew I had neglected it more than usual this past year. I had not pruned it, watered it – had barely noticed it – in the 15 months since Bruce started getting sick again. With three hospital stays between May and December, he has needed my tending more than my flower beds have. My roses have never looked worse, but my focus has been on my sweetheart, not on my flowers.

But this hydrangea has seemed to be a metaphor for never giving up, for persevering amid adversity.

A month ago I started looking at it with an anticipation that I hadn’t devoted to it in the past.

I noticed when the brown stems began to sprout tiny green leaves, then bigger leaves, then tiny buds. I even tried to take pictures of the blooms in their early stages, because I had lots of photos of the full blossoms but had none of them when they were still greenish white. (But my camera was acting up, and the photos didn’t turn out.)

I began getting excited for the day the blossoms would bloom out big, but I noticed and appreciated every little step along the way. I would say to the dogs in the stillness of daybreak, “It won’t be long, girls.”

It grew and grew.

And last night I went outside to stand in the back yard for a few minutes and enjoy the weather, which was finally cooling off for the day. I said to myself, “I surely should have pruned that thing back a little better last time. It’s really getting big and bushy.”

Later, when Bruce came to bed, I woke up to rain and lightning. I told him he probably should unplug the electronics, so he did. The storm wasn’t going to die down for a while.

And this morning at daybreak, when I let the dogs out, I saw my beloved hydrangea leaning over onto the ground.

Shaken, a bit stirred, fortunately not dead, but wounded nonetheless.

It was time for tough love. (As if that’s not what it already had received under my watch.)

I never have looked up “hydrangea care” on the Internet or in books. The “experts” may tell me that it’s the wrong time of year to be pruning a hydrangea, that you should never do it while it’s blooming or while the weather is this hot.

But I did it anyway. This afternoon I pruned it almost to the nub. It hurt to have to do it, but I’m just going to have to trust it to be strong and survive, as Bruce and I ourselves are trying to do this year.

All I have to go on is instinct.

And my instinct tells me I haven’t seen the last of this loyal friend.

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Week of Color: The Explosion

Disclaimer: With the text wrap around the photos, some of the text appears to describe the wrong photos. It will wrap differently in different browser windows, so I can’t control how it displays for you. Please keep that in mind as you read. I hope you can identify which flowers are which all on your own!

I am a gal who likes color — bright color, as I mentioned on Day Yellow (speaking of which, I found another yellow photo, so scroll down to the Yellow post or click here. It’s from a “wedding” cake I made last year – really a 40th-anniversary cake modeled on the couple’s 1967 wedding cake).

Brown, pale yellow, light green and all that is nice, but I take after my mom in my love of bright colors, jewel tones in particular. Most of my flowers — annual or perennial — end up being bright reds, purples or pinks.

I’ll share some of them with you here. Let’s start with RED!

Three or four years ago, I decided to start growing roses. I carefully researched and bought five bushes, all different colors. The roses themselves are pretty easy to grow, but I am still pulling up grass in the beds, as I hate putting chemicals in the ground. But all the weed pulling is worth it, because it helps me enjoy these, the firstfruits …


red rose multi

red rose single


pale pink rose


pink rose deweyThe next one is a hydrangea that’s in my back yard. I have always loved hydrangeas. They’re so unusual, so beautiful and so versatile. I love that you can control the color by changing the soil’s pH.

This one came from a funeral arrangement after my uncle died nearly six years ago. We had hydrangeas in the front yard of the house I grew up in (in Batesville), but after my dad died, my mother moved. It was difficult for me to see her give up the house where my dad had spent hours and hours making the landscaping beautiful, so I was going to get a cutting from the house before she sold it. Well, in the chaos of the move, I forgot about it, but the new owners said I could get a cutting. However, by the time I actually made it back up to Batesville to get a piece of the bush, they had dug up the hydrangeas! How could they? (I wanted to cry.) So when my dad’s brother died and my aunt offered me a plant after the funeral, I chose the hydrangea. The picture is from an experiment I was trying with my photo software. (I think. Or it could have been that the picture just turned out that way. I can’t really remember! Either way, I like the hazy look of this photo.)

hydgrangea foggy













The next one is from one of the three Rose of Sharon bushes from my mother-in-law’s garden when Bruce‘s parents lived in Virginia. Bruce used to take his son, Courtney, to visit Courtney’s grandparents every summer. Sometimes I went, and sometimes I stayed home. One of the years I stayed home, Bruce brought me three beautiful Rose of Sharon bushes from his mom. One of the bushes has purple blooms, but i can’t seem to find those pictures. Enjoy this pink one.

Rose of Sharon pink


For something a little closer to purple, enjoy this clematis from my front yard.














And this “purple coneflower,” which is actually less purple than the ones above and below it!

purple coneflower single

purple coneflower multi












I potted this purple flower on my front porch a couple of years ago. I can’t remember its name. Anyone?

purple flower wrought iron

purple flower double

I took the next two pictures pictures in Morro Bay, Calif., in 2006. I think this one is a lily.

Morro Bay flowers

And this is a jade plant. I loved the spider web!

jade plant spider web

I have two favorite flowers. My favorite simple, innocent flower is the daisy — just the plain white with yellow center. My favorite exotic flower is the bird of paradise, and I was so excited to stumble across this one at California Baptist University when I was there for a Crown retreat in 2006.

bird of paradise

The last picture is not of flowers but contains a bounty of color. When we were able to participate in the River Market’s Basket a Month program, we got this (and more) last summer. Doesn’t it make your mouth water?

BAM vegetables

I think I’ve had more fun with this post than any other. Thank you, Jerusalem, for your fantastic idea of a Week of Color. Along with being challenged to find ways to illustrate my color likes and dislikes, I have enjoyed all the creative ideas from you and your friends!

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