Flowers


I hate writer’s block.  Especially when it seems to be selective writer’s block, only specifically blocking the one thing I really, really, really need to be working on right now.  And I was on such a roll this morning before I had to stop to go to my first class.  Why can’t I get back there now?  Arrrgh!

So I’m blogging.  Because that helps with writer’s block, right?  Right?  Well, at least it’s an attempt.  It’s better than reading Veronica Mars recaps on Television Without Pity.  Not that I’m, you know, doing that at the moment or anything.  Though it would be research for when Justin trades me his DVDs of the first two Veronica Mars seasons for the Heroes Season One DVDs I just finished.  (I still like Sylar the best, except for perhaps Mr. Muggles.  Is this wrong?)

Ok, moving on… I had a good Easter break.  I dug the vegetable garden and planted sweet peas and lilies of the valley.  Hopefully the seeds haven’t frozen in the ground by now, what with all the random snowflakes flying around, but they’re cold-weather plants, so I think they can take it.  I think.  It was one of the happiest times of the last couple months digging out in the garden under the wide, open sky.  I forget, during those months when I don’t have access to the ground, how much being outside helping things grow fills me up inside.  I don’t know how people could live in urban concrete jungles with no access to growing things.  I couldn’t do it.  I think part of me would die inside.

The Easter Vigil was fun.  I wore my new peep-toe shoes (Liv: “Peep!  Peep!”), and got to sit next to Eric, who is one of my favorite relatives ever.  (No, really, ever.)  We can’t sit next to each other in church too often.  We find the same offbeat things utterly hilarious, and can’t help pointing them out to one another.  It makes for a very distracting sort of Mass.  The Easter Vigil always starts with the lighting of the new fire, followed by the candlelight procession into the church.  After the Easter proclamation, everyone blows out their candles and sits down to listen to the Bible readings.  There are a lot of them since this is the Easter Vigil.  Eric was fidgeting with his candle during the readings, peeling layers of wax off of it, then breaking it into segments and folding it into a figure 8 which then got reinserted into the paper cuff that’s supposed to catch the wax.  This meant that when the time came to relight the candles later in the Vigil, his candle had two ends we could light.  So we did, giggling silently as we watched them burn down extra quickly.  Then I had to recite him the oh, so apropos Edna St. Vincent Millay poem (“My candle burns at both ends,/ It will not last the night./ But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,/ It gives a lovely light.”)  That was pretty funny too.

The other fun thing was that I took Liv home with me for Easter dinner.  I love watching her hang out with my family, especially the guys in my family.  The thing is that she’s really, really beautiful.  However, she doesn’t see her own beauty, particularly since she pays little to no attention to her looks whatsoever.  In her book, her blond sister is the beautiful one in the family, and Liv is the tomboy that nobody looks at twice.  Plus, she grew up rough-housing with two little brothers, so she doesn’t quite understand how the same behavior that’s really annoying in an older sister could be, well, really encouraging in a cute young woman sortof your own age.  It’s a kind of innocence.  Mikey is still young enough that they can play together without worries (plus he’s the one she trusts enough to carry her from my car into the house), but it was interesting watching Larry, my oldest brother.  He had just gotten his hair buzzed really short, so she had to rub it (she rubs her little brothers heads when they’ve just gotten a buzz cut).  It was awesome watching his brain melt and dribble out of his skull right there in my aunt’s living room.

And the other good part about Easter?  I got to talk to Joe.  When I was getting ready to leave my aunt’s house I saw that I’d missed a couple of calls, one from Ella, and one from a number I didn’t recognize.  I didn’t really think it was him, but part of me hoped (I’ve been missing him a lot, and it had been over a month since I got his last letter).  So I listened to my messages right then and there.  One of them was from him, telling me that he’s in New Orleans and giving me a number where I’ll be able to contact him from now until May.  Do you know how long it’s been since I had a phone number I could dial and connect with Joe any old time I wanted?  Years.  I mean, first he was in Afghanistan, then world traveling, then sharing a phone with the whole Jesuit novitiate.  It’s been a long time.  I got myself and Liv home as quickly as I could, went directly up to my room and called 14.  We talked a long time, the first time I think we’ve been able to talk ourselves out since he left town a year ago.  Then last night I called him again, just because I could. 

Now I’m trying to finish up school projects, clean the house to make a good impression of the potential roommate who might come visiting this weekend while I’m gone, and getting ready to leave for Boston.  Yup, friends, it’s time for the Boston Tea Party!  I’ve been waiting for this since I came home from my first Tea Party last year.  I’m so excited and nervous and stressed thinking of all the things that have to happen between now and when I fly out of Columbus on Thursday.  Thank goodness this year I have a room in the actual hotel, and if all goes well I’ll actually make it out for Thursday night instead of missing my flight like last year.  I’m also registered to compete in the West Coast Newcomers Jack & Jill.  Also, John Lindo owes me two dances.

Eeek!  Just thinking about it makes me nervous.  Breathe, Bernadette, breathe.  Ok.  I’m going to take another stab at that paper writing, and if that doesn’t work, I’m doing laundry.

Jenn just messaged me that K-Mart is selling roses for cheap!   Maybe I’ll have my rose garden after all!

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I got tagged by the lovely Amber of danceprimer.com!

Here are the rules:
1 – Link to the blog who tagged you (above)
2 – Post the rules on your blog
3 – Share seven random and/or weird things about yourself.
4 – Tag seven people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5 – Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven Random Things About Me:

1. I actually like getting tagged in memes like this. I enjoy the challenge to my creativity. Plus, it shows me that other people are reading what I write and actually want to hear more! That’s exciting.

Peace Rose

2. I love roses. There’s something about them, with their many soft petals gracefully unfolding around the secret, fragrant heart. I love every color of rose, but I particularly love the soft, pastel roses brushed with many colors all at once. They enchant me. I also love climbing roses. I have a theory that any outdoor structure could be aesthetically improved by the addition of a climbing rose. I once amused myself on a long car trip by imagining how you could grow climbing roses up over the St. Louis Arch. This included a scheme of hanging platforms for them to could grow on and an irrigation system. It was pretty sweet. I’ve always said that if I ever get married, my husband will be a lucky man. If he does something stupid, all he has to do is bring me home roses and all will be well. Of course, that depends on exactly how stupid he’s been.

Crystal Lite drink mix

3. I’m becoming a bit addicted to sugar-free drink mix powders. I used to scorn them as the quintessence of over-commercialized, over-packaged, artificial suburban lifestyles. An unnecessary product with absolutely no nutritional value, packaged in single serving portions, designed to be added to another unnecessary product (bottled water – when the stuff that comes out of the tap is perfectly good). I didn’t go so far as avert my eyes when I passed them in the supermarket aisle, but it was close. Then my boss bought a box and didn’t care for the flavor. So she passed them on to me, and, well, I couldn’t let them go to waste, could I? (God forbid I should actually throw something out!) And… they tasted good. And I started drinking more water. And they had Vitamin C in them. Now the box is almost completely used up and I’m contemplating actually (eek!) spending my own money to buy another box. Sigh.

My flair

4. Lately I’ve also been getting a little addicted to the Pieces of Flair application on facebook. I resisted it as long as I could. I always looked down on applications like this as faddish clutter – annoying and teeny-bopper-ish. Then my friends started using it, first Sue, then Lori, then Stella. They kept sending me stuff, and talking about what they’d sent. Finally I couldn’t hold out any longer, and with true convert-fervor started flair-ing all over the place. Maybe there’s a 12-step program I can join…

World Youth Day 08 logo

5. There’s a chance I might get to go to Australia for World Youth Day this summer. It seems that there is a certain organization sending a delegation which has acquired a sponsor eager to pay all expenses for young adults who otherwise could not dream of going. As far as I can tell they’ll pay for everything, and in exchange you help work their booth promoting vocations. As soon as I heard of it I sent back an e-mail saying essentially, “Oh, me! Pick me! Pick me!” They say they want to meet with me, and then… we’ll see what happens. Here’s the funny thing – the acronym for the organization I’d be going with is SPORCH. Which, if you squint at it a little, is like SPORK. Which is a lot like The Tick’s battle cry of, “SPOON!” I find this endlessly amusing. Liv says that we should pass out metal sporks engraved with vocations information, and then people would remember us. I pointed out that all of the meals provided to us at World Youth Day will come with their own sporks as it is, so perhaps extra ones won’t be so memorable. And then, it seems that, since this is an organization promoting religious vocations, most of the other young adults on the trip will be guys discerning vocations to the priesthood. Considering my strict (sortof) no-dating-wannabe-priests policy (and what does it say about my life that I have to have such a policy?), this is more proof that God has a seriously twisted sense of humor. Fortunately, so do I.

Sylar

6. I am currently watching the season one DVDs of Heroes. Justin found out that I like the show, but hadn’t watched the first season (besides the two episodes that were still upon the NBC website), so he lent them to me. So far I’m almost more a fan of Sylar than any of the other characters. There’s something about a really good villain. They appeal to the same part of me that likes guys who ride motorcycles and have five o’clock shadow. Maybe this is also why I like Dexter so much… Although Mark challenged me the other week on how I, the Theology Major, could justify watching a show celebrating a serial killer. He’s got a point.

7. I am the third daughter of my mother, who is also named Bernadette, and who is also the third daughter in her family. If I ever have kids, I’ll have to have three daughters so I can name the third one Bernadette.

And that’s what I have for you today! And I hereby tag… Mames (again), Polly (also again), Stuart, Kjirstin, Allison, Kenzie, and Zaph (turnabout is fair play!).

Today I saw a drowned worm on the sidewalk, the first of the year.  I think that might be an even more powerful harbinger of spring than the warm weather we had for a few days, or the tiny green leafbuds on the tree outside my bedroom window, or even the small, red growths on the rose bush that signify leaves and blooms in the future.  I think this is my favorite time of year, even if the contrary weather is currently making things bleak and gray.  Hints and promises are all over the place, like the small green spikes of flowering bulbs, and the beginnings of new growth on my thyme plants.

Also, all the yarn scraps left over from the pom-poms on Liv’s Hat of Awesomeness (more about that later) which I scattered on my windowsill yesterday have disappeared.  I hope that the birds have taken them for nesting material, not that they’ve simply blown away.  Our backyard is very bird-heavy these days.  It’s been fun identifying them.  We have a nesting pair of cardinals – the lady is so funny looking in her deep red brown feathers with that bright orange beak.  There are also finches, both plain and rosy, (I’m kind of excited about them, because I read that they’re one of the few birds aggressive enough to chase off the ever-present sparrows) and chickadees.  The chickadees were the most difficult to identify.  It took me a while to get a good look at them.  For a while I had convinced myself that the black and white bird that kept showing up on the suet feeder was a kind of woodpecker.  Then I saw a picture of chickadees in the bird feeder catalog and immediately recognized the birds in my backyard.  Now every time I hear them sing it makes me smile.

Something else that makes me smile is my Swing Club kids.  They’ve started coming out to more of the local swing events, which has been delightful.  There’s a lot of them, so I’ve been borrowing my parents’ van to chauffeur them around.  On Saturday I took them out to the monthly dance.  They were a huge hit with the regular swing people.  They’re so young and excited and, well, innocent.  (Mark: “They’re like swing dancers before Original Sin.”)  I enjoy watching them.  They’re not the best dancers by a long shot – there are almost universal frame problems, footwork issues, etc. – but they’re learning and growing at such a pace!  Plus, they’re just so cute!  They’re very sick of that adjective, and I don’t blame them, but it fits so exactly there’s simply no other word to use.  Several of them will be taking the Balboa workshop this month, more than will fit in my car, so I’m borrowing the van every Wednesday to take them.  I can’t wait!

I love Valentine’s Day.  I really do.  I like the hearts and flowers, the sappy commercials, the overpowering use of red and pink.  One of my favorite things is passing out Valentines.  Every year I buy a box of the cheap little ones made for kids to pass out at school, usually of the Disney Princess persuasion, and inflict them on everyone around me.  This year’s box came with a sheet of glittery temporary tattoos, which made for extra fun.  I took them to swing dancing with me last night, and gave one to every person there, including the couple I met for the first time that night.  Then I and the girls started playing with the tattoos.  Meghan and I tried to put one on Danny by stealth, but were defeated by the amazing hairiness of his arms.  By the time we were done all of the girls but one were wearing tattoos, and three of the guys.  Good times.

Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I was a little, oh, cranky about Valentine’s Day. There have been very few February 14th’s on which I have been in the sort of relationship that would give me grounds to expect anything. Not that that stopped me. I’d spend the whole day on a sort of demi-pointe of expectation, hoping that perhaps this year some secret admirer would suddenly emerge from the woodwork waving a dozen roses. Or maybe the Man of My Dreams (whoever that was at the time) would abruptly realize the depth of his affection for me, and choose to express it with chocolate, pink hearts, and perhaps something lace-adorned. At the end of the day I’d go to bed sad and disappointed, knowing that my hopes were completely unrealistic, but annoyed with the world for not fulfilling them anyway.

Then one year I had an attitude adjustment. I got tired of being bitter, and took a look around. I realized that Valentine’s Day (although completely divorced from any pseudo-Christian roots it may have ever had) is the day on which our society celebrates happy ever afters. On this day we collectively express belief in the notion that true love does exist, that people really do sometimes find the person they’re meant to be with, that faithful, lifelong love is not only possible, but beautiful. It may not be happening for everyone (or, um, me), but it really does happen. Dreams do come true, people do fall in love with other people, and this is a good thing.  I celebrate Valentine’s Day because I am glad that human love exists.  And so, my friends, I propose a toast: To True Love and Happy Ever Afters, and To Those To Whom They Come – may we each be one of them one day.

First, the good news. Lisa is coming home from Kenya! Hurrah! She has officially booked her ticket, and should be safely back in Ohio on Thursday. I won’t completely feel the relief until I know her plane has touched down in our local airport, but already the tension has eased so much. So that’s good.

The other good news is that I finally was able to scan in my garden plans I’ve been sketching on scrap paper during classes. I reuse paper, so anything with a blank side (flyers, handouts from previous classes, papers that printed out incorrectly, etc.) is my note paper. Most of my doodles were done on what would have been part of the course packet for one of my classes, only the printer was running out of toner. This is why there’s fading lines of text on some of the sketches. I had originally planned to photoshop that out, but I kinda like the way it looks. So you get to see it in its original, unadulterated form. Enjoy!

back yard

This is my plan for the whole back yard. Some of this is already planted, and some of it is hopes for the future. The lavender, snapdragons, and the bulk of the herb garden are already established. The other flowers, most of the roses, the vegetables, and the rosemary and basil wings on the herb garden are what I hope to accomplish this year. This is a better diagram of the herb garden:

herb garden

The “x” were where I had rosemary this year. I pulled one out and tried to keep it alive in the kitchen over the winter. This has not been successful. Sigh. However, I did learn that my basil tends to turn into total monsters (mine was as high as my waist this year no matter how severely I cut it down), overshadowing the other plants. So this year I’m going to plant it on the other side of the herb garden where the only thing it will overshadow is the roots of a pine tree. The sage and oregano will happily fill in the place of the rosemary, and I’ll plant some parsley where the basil was. I love fresh parsley.

lavender bed

This is a view of the side flower garden. I have four varieties of lavender planted in a six foot bed centered on a picturesque crack in the cement wall that edges our property. I want to extend the flower beds out on each side, with hollyhocks and cosmos on the side extending towards the garage, and asters on the side towards the house. This should help cover the seedlings of first year money plant, since that won’t flower until the second year.

rose garden

This is how I hope the rose garden will look. The only rose there now is the one furthest on the right. It’s a tea rose I haven’t been able to identify, with magenta-y red blooms. I plan to balance it with mostly white roses, and perhaps a bi-colored miniature rose in front to anchor everything down. Please also note the bird feeder to the left of the rose garden. That’s already there, and is swiftly becoming the place where all the birds want to be.

front porch

This is what I want to do with the front of the house. Most of the front yard is in impenetrable shadow from a tree I haven’t been able to identify. However, the sides of the house receive enough sun tha tI think we’ll be able to do something interesting. There’s already another rose bush, perhaps a climbing rose, with magenta-red blooms similar to the bush in the back yard. I have no idea how long it’s been there, but I rather like it and the link I imagine it to be to some other woman who lived here and loved flowers.

So… that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

You can tell you’re starting to recover from your ravaging bout with sinusitis when you start almost forgetting to take your antibiotics.  You can tell you still have a ways to go when what used to be normal activities leave you exhausted.  Sigh.  Yesterday and this morning I did what would have been a normal schedule for me back in the day.  Class, work, pit stop home for dinner, Ash Wednesday Mass, another pit stop to pick up some things I’d forgotten, dancing, home, sleep, wake up, classes.  My day is far from done (I have another class in about an hour, then an appointment, and then my Catholic young adult group in the evening), but right now I mostly want to crawl back into bed and call it done.  Still, this is progress!  A week ago I wouldn’t have made it to half those classes, or dancing, or Mass.  So we’re doing better here.

Lisa is currently still in Nairobi, hopefully making arrangements to come home in the next couple of days.  There are so many conflicting reports about whether things are getting better or getting worse, it’s been hard for her to decide whether she should come home or just wait things out so she can finish her teaching stint.  The US Embassy had a town hall meeting a few days ago for US citizens and their families, where they were sounding fairly upbeat, not at all encouraging people to leave.  So it’s been hard to know what to do.  However, recently the opposition leaders were threatening more rallies, which really means more rioting.  This stupidity irritated Lisa so much that at that point she had decided to leave as soon as possible.  Most of our communication with her is through text messages (phone calls are so exorbitantly expensive that they have to be carefully rationed, but we found out that Judy’s cell service plan lets her send texts to Kenya for $.25), so it’s a little hard to know what she’s thinking.  Personally, I want Lisa to come home.  She may not be in any danger at the moment, but the situation is completely unstable, and it doesn’t look likely to settle down any time soon.  Everything could change at any time.  Within half an hour a place that was perfectly safe could become a war zone.  I don’t want my sister to be caught in the middle of something like that.  Plus, the sad truth is that as a young, white, blond American woman traveling alone overseas, she is uniquely vulnerable.  So, yeah, I want her home. Now.

On the up side, the gardening catalogs have been coming in for a little while now.  I’ve taken to doodling garden plans and ideas on my scrap paper during class instead of taking notes.  I used to write letters instead of taking notes, but now it’s mostly drawing gardens.  When I get a little time and access to a scanner, I want to scan them in to show you guys.  I think the one of my proposed small rose garden for back by the garage is especially lovely.  Liv and I went to the garden center to buy seeds a few days ago.  She got peppers, tomatoes, and green beans for her buckets on the back deck.  I got asters, sunflowers, cosmos, and money plant for the flower garden, and carrots, radishes, zucchini, and lettuce mix for a small vegetable garden.  Plus I also got sweet peas to grow up over the deck railing.  I wish it were March already so I could start planting things!

I have decided that, regardless of the difficulties involved, I will have a merry Christmas. In order to encourage this, I have compiled a small list of things that I particularly enjoy about this time of year. I thought I’d share it as a small blogging Christmas present from me to you. May it help you be happy too!

Bernadette’s List Of Christmas Cheer

  1. Fresh pine. The first year my sister was in college while she was studying for finals she happened to watch an episode of Martha Stewart Living that showed making fresh pine garlands. As soon as she got home she went on a scavenging expedition all over the neighborhood surreptitiously gathering evergreen branches. She spread them out on sheets laid on the living room floor and turned the heaps of branches into wreaths and swags and sprays for the windows. They were beautiful, and they made the whole house smell so good. Today at the grocery store I picked up a fresh pine spray and took a deep breath. It smelled like Christmas.
  2. Roses. The first Christmas that I lived with my grandmother roses happened to be dirt cheap. I love roses more than almost anything, so I bought dozens and dozens, filling the house with them. They were in big vases on the dining room table, in little vases in the bathrooms, in pitchers in the bedrooms, with single blooms in bud vases tucked wherever there was space. I loved it so much that I made it my personal Bernadette Christmas tradition to have roses ever since. Things have been so disorienting that I almost forgot this year. Then today I walked into Meijer’s to do some last minute grocery shopping. The flower stand was by the door, full of roses as usual, and I remembered. It’s Christmas. I need roses. So I got some. I could only afford one dozen, but they look beautiful in the large vase to put by the nativity set and a little one for my bedroom. If I have roses, then it must be really Christmas.
  3. Pomegranates. Every year I watch and wait for the pomegranates to arrive. They’re one of the few foods you can’t easily get year round. Now the season is a couple of months beginning in November, but back in the day you were lucky to find them during just a few weeks in December. They were expensive, so my parents would buy just one for all of us to share. We carefully peeled back the red, leathery skin, revealing the seeds like jewels nestled inside. We broke the sections apart and portioned them out between us, careful to make each share exactly equal. I would eat the seeds one by one, feeling the burst of sweet tart juice on my tongue. They’re still one of my favorite fruits. Besides tasting good, they’re so beautiful. It’s like eating garnets. Plus they’re romantic. In the Song of Songs (the sexy part of the Bible), when the groom is praising the bride’s beauty, he tells her, “Your lips are like a scarlet thread; your mouth is lovely. Your cheek is like a half-pomegranate behind your veil.” (Song of Songs 4:3) It’s a wonderful thing.
  4. The Messiah by Handel. When I was growing up this was one of the things my mom would put on while she was working in the afternoons. Most people only know the Halleluia Chorus, but we were used to listening to it all the way through. I know it so well it’s almost seeped into my subconscious. The strings in Thou Didst Not Leave His Soul In Hell, the trumpet aria in The Trumpet Shall Sound, the fierce choral parts in But Thanks Be To God. I think I could sing along to it before I could understand the words. The parts I love the best are actually all from the section about Christ’s death and resurrection, but somehow it’s still associated with this time of year. I was listening to it as I drove around today. It felt like home.
  5. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I love that song. When I was growing up, during Advent before dinner every night we would turn out all the lights, light the Advent wreathe, and sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. We’re a musical family, so often it would be multiple verses in four (or five or six) part harmony. I know there were nights that I couldn’t stand it, nights when I really, really didn’t want to hold my sibling’s hand and sing. When I look back, however, all I can seem to remember is my family gathered warmly together in the glow of the candlelight and the song rising from our hearts to God’s.

That’s what I have so far. Merry Christmas!!!!

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