May to Date

What in the world have I been doing, I asked myself when the children wanted to know the date for the Sunday school lesson to study. I couldn’t quite believe it’s May 22, but there it was, on my phone which doesn’t lie. I made a list, just for clarification that I haven’t been dawdling. *Insert sounds of guffaws*


  • We started with this line-up on May Day. It looked pretty promising.

spring florals, May 1

  • I employed myself to a program of outdoor maintenance at my dad’s decking/vinyl railing business. This included about 4 trips to the greenhouse to get everything looking gorgeous for their annual open house. Then it rained most of the day and people didn’t even walk around the grounds. And then we had a surprise frost that nipped the pretties right back to square one.
  • I turned 39. Yep, I did. That morning I determined to make myself a luscious London Fog cake but I forgot to take it out of the oven and I left for a solitary stroll at a nearby park. Halfway around the lakeside trail, I remembered and sent a frantic text home, but the vanilla cake was quite dry and sawdusty by then. When you are 39, you should know better than that, but at least you have learned not to give up too easily. I already had the Earl Grey infused cream for the icing, so I mixed another batch of batter and made cupcakes after I got home.   I also picked up pizza for supper. With spinach and sriracha sauce because it was my birthday, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it!

Burnt cakebirthday cupcake


  • I got to visit with our friends, Motz and Paige, he being a sort of unofficial little brother from way back when. At the same time, my actual little brother and his family were in the area, so we had a grand catching up time. Unfortunately it was an evening that Gabe had to work, so he missed out on the reminiscing. (Thank a nurse today.)
  • I celebrated Mother’s Day with five of the most dearling  (Addy’s new word) children, again a day when their father had to work, and yes, I feel a tad bitter about nurse shifts on these occasions. (Thank a nurse’s spouse today.) However, I do not believe that it is in anyone’s best interests to marinate in the inconveniences of hospital employ, so we went on a hike that day and found a bunch of wildflowers. (Don’t they look like little rascals? But I wouldn’t trade them for anything!)

Mother's day, 2016

  • We all 7 had dentist appointments in one forenoon, with one orthodontist appointment to make, 2 follow-ups for fillings and 1 in six months for sealing of molars. I could happily forgo dental appointments all my life, for real. I HATE it. The hygienist always compliments me that I have no plaque, but I end up being the one who needs fillings. I blame it on gestating and lactating and freely offering up my calcium to others for all those years. It can’t be eating gummy candies, in any case.
  • There was a doctor’s appointment in Pittsburgh; I took three little girls along for the ride on west to Ohio to my sister’s house where a gorgeous tea awaited us on arrival. I had carefully selected my favorite scented jar candle from my stash because Rachel had told me that she always ends up giving away as gifts the ones she likes best. When I handed my hostess gift to her, she got a funny look and said, “I gave you that candle at Christmas.” I thought I remembered picking it out at TJ Maxx, but who knows who is right? After all, she is pregnant and I am 39. At any rate, we each gave our best. 🙂 The ride to Ohio included picking up freezer beef for us. Have you ever driven four hours with styrofoam coolers squeaking against each other at every bump in the road? It does help to listen to “The Boxcar Children” on audio really loudly, but I don’t recommend it.
  • I prepared, if I calculated correctly, about 462 individual meals, plus a few extra on the day that Gabe had friends over to help him with a barn raising project. It was my pleasure, and especially once I had a freezer full of beef to work with. Approximately every 3 days a meal includes asparagus, which is of itself an item of great cheer. Just occasionally I would give up my French press for an in-house cook though.

Barn raising

  • I got to try my hand at messing with clay on a real potter’s wheel, compliments of my sister-in-law Ruby, who set up a training session for my birthday. It took us two hours to drive to the studio, but we had so much fun and I have been dreaming of a way to set up my own operation. Rather many $$$ would be involved. And a lot of time and more strength than I had any idea. It looks so effortless when you watch an artist draw that pot out of the lump of clay, but my shoulders were sore for days. Here is another sister-in-law, Rhonda, who will be having a birthday soon too, and who also had fun because someday her luck with finding pottery at thrift stores may run out and this would be a valuable skill. (I might add here that I went through three towels on my lap and still had clay water smeared down my skirt. The other two came out fresh as daisies. How do they do that?)

pottery making

  • Last, but definitely not least, we finished school, as in all wrapped up, portfolios, achievement tests, evaluations, and a party with the pretty dishes on the lace tablecloth! A field trip to the Lincoln Caverns and a very soggy picnic later, we are done!

I feel a bit like someone put me into a salad spinner and wrung all the moisture out, and that is why I intend to actually dawdle as much as I can in the next week.

Here is one final photo of the barn project as it stands, startling me when I look out the kitchen window because I am not used to it yet. Isn’t the timber framing elegant? One of these days I will look out and be startled by sunshine instead of this grey sky. I believe it! Oh yeah, and one of these days I will be picking 12 rows of peas. Dawdling will be a distant memory. Also one of these days the front of the garden will be bordered by callas and dahlias and zinnias. I can hardly wait!

barn skeleton


“Hmmm,” he mused as he sipped the tea he had just poured from the puddle left over in the teapot early this morning. “It tastes a little like Earl Grey or Vanilla Caramel, but with a sort of fruit flavor.” I looked at Gregory, my jaw dropping. He had no way of knowing that Gabe had adulterated our pot of Earl Grey last night with some butter rum and green apple flavor. I knew he messed with the tea, but I didn’t know what he had done. It was experimental, a joke on me, because I will never live down a funny mistake I made soon after our marriage.

Some of Gabe’s aunts and their families had gotten together for a picnic, bringing their specialty dishes to share. They are all fabulous cooks, and the fare was topped with homemade ice cream that had traveled 1 1/2 hours packed in ice. Everyone was having conniptions about the ice cream, so even though I was avoiding sugar because I was pregnant, I had to have some. It was smooth, creamy, better than anything Ben and Jerry’s produces. It was a light brown. I savored a dainty bite, then turned to ask the ice cream making aunt, “Wow, how do you get the caramel flavor? Do you use brown sugar?” She looked at me blankly, then chirped, “It’s COFFEE!”

Later that night I related the story to Gabe and we howled at the newly-wed niece making polite and clueless conversation with the artist-in-the-kitchen aunt. To this day, Gabe likes to fix flavored coffees at the gas station, then get me to guess the flavors. I have been around long enough to know his is creme brulee and mine is preferably French vanilla, but he thinks it is so fun to mix it up and stump me. Then I say, “It’s COFFEE!” And I am always right.

I can’t differentiate smells so well, either. He has about five favorite scents that he wears, and while they are all “my man” to me, I can’t tell which is which. If I guess right, it’s just because I got lucky. I don’t wear perfume unless I want to sneeze all day. There was a time, though, when I smelled an electrical fire and he didn’t. I insisted something stank. Sure enough, the hot water heater was putting out an awful fume of burnt elements down in the basement. At least I know if something stinks or smells good.

In blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes the work that professional tasters put into their craft. They spend years and years honing their expertise so that they can break down an Oreo cookie into ninety attributes of flavor, texture, and appearance. They can tell the Nabisco company exactly what happens when they change their cookie recipe. What’s more, they are so highly skilled that their assessments appear to be nearly effortless, like first impressions.

While I find that fascinating, I don’t aspire to anything more than tasty food, the right amount of salt, no lumps in the gravy, cookies that don’t crumble all over the floor, etc.

I have other senses, though. There’s a finely tuned sense of humor. Sometimes it gives me giggles at a funeral, which is highly inappropriate, but stress relieving. I can have the worst day and lie in bed in tears, when suddenly I find myself laughing because all the craziness in the day piling up is just too funny for words. I would rather be able to laugh at myself than taste 45 differences between Coke and Pepsi.

I can tell when a child has a burdened conscience or a wounded spirit. Sometimes I just know and carry the burden and pray for clarity so that they don’t have to live under a cloud. It’s a sense I want to hone, especially with teens in the house. I would love some input into the process, because I am really green here.

I can sense when people don’t like me. That sounds childish, but I mean it in an objective way. It’s something I read in their faces, some micro-expression that can’t be masked by a smile. Recently we changed to a different family practice because the doctors and nurses were so snobbish and unhelpful at the one where we were taking our children. Whether or not they liked us, they didn’t act that way. And I didn’t like them talking to me as if I could barely understand English, much less why we should give our children every vaccination that was ever developed. It’s easy in that sort of situation. You can quietly move on. Most cases where I feel someone doesn’t like me, it is best just to assume they do, but try to stay a little out of their space. As an oversharing someone who likes (almost) everyone, this is hard to do sometimes. I don’t take this sense too seriously, but I have it, no doubt about it. Probably most people do.

There is one more thing that I would like discussion on. I love conversation. With anybody. Exploring ideas and cultures is so much fun; everybody has a story to tell and I would genuinely like to hear it, especially if it has an accent. It bugs me when I am trying to be friendly to someone and they just drop the ball repeatedly. I know conversation is a sort of learned art, much easier for some than others. Listening is the same way. When I ask someone, “So how was your day?” I am making a sincere effort to hone my listening sense. If they say, “Good,” and stand there waiting for me to ask the next question, I start to feel scrambled and like they really wish I would just bug off. Can someone, preferably an introvert, tell me what is best in this situation? Does this mean, “I don’t want to talk to you; leave me alone.” Or maybe it means, “Please find the topic that sets me going. Then I will tell you all.”

Last night at our annual widow’s dinner I sat opposite a sprightly little lady with a gorgeous silver pompadour. I had never met her and made small talk about where she lives, whether she has family nearby, etc. She answered with a bare minimum of syllables and I soon decided she didn’t want to converse, leaving her in peace during the main course. About dessert time, something she said to her friend about reading on her patio gave me an idea. “So what books do you like to read?” It was like I pushed the button that lights her up and for the rest of the evening she talked and talked and talked. She told me all about her book collection and a lot of family history as well as her philosophy on cooking and housework. As we were leaving, I told her how beautiful her hair was and she said, “I hope I sit opposite you again next year.”

That just warmed my heart to the cockles and goes to show that the “doesn’t like me” vibe can be very wrong.

And now, my windowsill on this glorious May 1. I have no words, only a heart of thanks for every single bloom.

spring florals, May 1