Thursday, May 31, 2012

The living is easy

Summertime and the livin' is easy....
Is yours? Are you living easy?  For me, living easy comes in stops and starts.  As I write this, it's an overcast Saturday  morning with rain on the air.  I've got a cup of Starbuck's Tribute coffee at my side and I'm the only one awake.  The birds are in full song and the bumble bees and butterflies are exploring our latest plants and flowers.  I'm sitting on my back porch in my bathrobe, the neighbors haven't yet kicked their radios up to full blast and my only company is Donny.  He's saying very little, having many chipmunks and squirrels to keep in check.
So right now?  Yes, summertime and the living is easy.  Yesterday's summertime was hard but good, working in the yard but not working in an office.  Later today the landscaping will continue and the easy living will recede for a while. 
When Daboyz were little, I was a stay at home mom.  Summertime flowed at its own pace, slow and lazy.  We awoke when we were done sleeping, we got dressed when we felt like it.  Some days we spread a blanket in the backyard and had a picnic.  Other days we walked to see my parents or headed here, where my grandparents lived at the time.  Structure and schedules were other people's worries.  We even drank from the garden hose.
Life wasn't easy then, but the living was.  The exquisite slowness of those warm sunny days were bought with an empty bank account, and worth every cent not in our pockets.  I never felt sad about the money, I felt blessed that the living was easy.
Now, most mornings find me rushed off of the back porch after one cup of coffee, and that not sipped in leisure.  There's a schedule to maintain, a job to get to.  I actually set my alarm a half hour earlier to buy myself more time on the back porch before the world presses in.  Life is easier, the living isn't.  With little boys grown up and changing priorities, I'm wistful about the loss of those slow lazy summer days.  I sigh as I put my coffee cup into the sink and put on my scrubs.  But when I am driving down the freeway with the morning sun overhead, I am well stocked with memories of easy living summer days...not a single one wasted.  There aren't a lot of specific moments, it's the way of it that remains sweetly clear in my mind.  Specific moments don't stand out because it was the way we lived, under the warm sun watching ladybugs climb blades of grass. 
Now we are older and daboyz are in their twenties, working full time jobs.   Still, there are days when the living is easy again.  When I hear one of my sons calling his brother to coordinate their schedules so that they can be here together for dinner, when they gravitate outside with a glass of lemonade and talk about gardens and when they drag the hammock out of the garage and lay under the trees.  I can almost see the shadows of toddlers in diapers running across the grass, little guys sitting at a tiny wooden picnic table running their fingers over the letters of their names, painted there by my dad.  I can imagine my grampa pushing them in the old antique carriage that my own behind once sat in.  I can feel the structure of their little jaws and the softness of their faces under cool washcloths as I cleaned the Popsicle juice from their sticky cheeks. 
Not all achievements are hard-won.  The sacred and holy comes to us when we realize that life may not always be so, but often the living of it is easy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Marigolds in an old camp coffee pot!

I can't say that I have a green thumb because true gardeners are committed to the science of things like soil acidity and cross pollination.  Not I.  No, I like things that are low maintenance and old fashioned.  Peonies, geraniums, marigolds and evergreens are my speed.  The main reason I have a berry patch is t they grow and spread with very little attention and no expertise. And you know how I love a forsythia! 
Here then, are some gardening ideas for the low maintenance and humble budgeted amongst us. 

Herbs!  Plant herbs in pots or in the ground and pay attention to choose perennials.  You've love the amazing taste of fresh mint, parsley, rosemary, basil, cilantro, dill...Just a few plants will quickly spread and as you use them throughout the summer, they will keep right on growing. 

Perennials!  Just a few dollars more than annuals and you have a one time investment with years of benefit.  Every year we have added a few perennials.  Now we pick up just a few annuals for accents but the work and money are done for the greater part.  And there are few things more satisfying than walking around your yard in the spring seeing those miraculous little buds!

Clearance plants!  Yes you heard me, even garden centers have clearance racks.  True, some of the poor boogers on these racks will never bloom again.  BUT!  People pay lots of money for full blooms when in fact, all flowering plants need pruning and deadheading and they'll come right back brighter than ever.  Ignore the blooms.  Bring those little rejects home,  transplant them into a larger container or the ground (sometimes their roots are outgrowing the tiny containers) and trim away the brown.  You will be utterly amazed at how quickly the plant will revive.  This year I chose most of our perennials and annuals from clearance plants and the most I paid was $1.39 for a large Blazing Sunset Chlian Aven.  It had not a single blossom and was wilty and sad.  I put it into a larger pot, trimmed away the brown leaves and deadheaded the old blooms and within 24 hours I was enjoying a beautiful plant that was $7 on the full price shelf.   I paid 79 cents for a flat of marigolds, $3.50 full price.  Everyone one of them is now in big  yellow bloom.  Gabera daisy?  $1 on clearance.  And speaking of saving money...

Shop but don't buy!  There is an astonishing variation in the prices between different stores.  Not just high end low end,  but from item to item within a store.  Hanging plants at Lowe's, $7.99-$20.00, at Aco they start at $12.99.  HOWEVER!  This year's must-have was a patio table umbrella.  Lowe's was middle of the line, starting at about 60 bucks and going up from there.  K-Mart, K-Mart, K-Mart...who do you think you are?  Started at $89.99.  Family Dollar had them for $14.99, too small for our needs but a good bargain for someone.  And back to Aco where the hanging plants and flowers are ridiculous...$39.99 for an umbrella comparable to Lowe's and nicer than K-Mart.   Umbrella stand, plastic one for $12.  You can spend upwards of $50 on an umbrella stand but not worth it to me.  Take your time looking around when you don't actually have the money ;) You'll avoid impulse purchases and make some worthwhile discoveries.  Another of my relatively insane theories, decide before you leave home how much you think an item should be.  When you shop, if you have really low-balled it, it might give you pause to consider if it's still something you want at that higher price.  It'll also give you something to shoot for, keeping an eye out for that item but buying only if it's closer to the value in your head.  In my case I wanted a small plastic watering can with a narrow spout.  In my head, this item should be less than $5.00.  In reality, closer to $20 in most places. Well, for $20 stinking dollars,  I'll use a lemonade pitcher or plastic water bottle or hose.  Back to the clearance rack idea; found exactly what I wanted on clearance at Aco for $!

Smaller is better!  It's easy to be taken in by larger shrubs and bushes but there is no real value unless there's a pressing reason for an adult plant right now.  The smaller shrubs will grow faster than you think.  We paid $6.98 for the accent shrubs on our berm.  The same plant in a larger size?  $35.  By my estimation with the growth rate on the tag, we'll be there in about 3 years.  And don't be tempted to over plant those bad boys.  Pay attention to the spacing.  They'll need every inch. 

Patience baby! Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is a beautiful yard.  You might even find that the impulsive plans born in the garden center won't age well.  Slow down, look around and consider what you want a particular space to ultimately become and then figure out how you can accomplish it with a budget.  My experience has been that the most satisfying projects have evolved over a few years.  I knew I wanted a patio but being a pretty expensive step in the plan, I had to save for 2 years to get there.  I was tempted more than once to compromise and do something cheaper so I could have it right now but I held out and I'm so glad I did.  Although still not complete, the patio area is starting to look like what I was hoping for.  HOWEVER, it was pretty ugly along the way!  When the patio finally went in in 2011, it busted the yard budget for the summer.  So we had this lovely patio framed by a mound of dirt we called a berm. 

Know when to compromise! I wanted a fire pit area but the side of the yard where it would be is smallish and  in Michigan, there aren't that many fire pit evenings.  I considered a permanent fire pit but it would have eaten up valuable space so I compromised and got one we can move around.  When it's cool out and we are really only outside for fires, the fire pit is moved into the center of the patio and surrounded by chairs.  As the weather warms and we start using the picnic table, it's moved to the side to share space. And when it finally becomes really and truly summer, we move it to the side to make room to spread out on the patio.  I have future plans for a pond with a fountain or small waterfall. We've chosen the product we want but it will be a 2013 project (the berm completion having absorbed 2012's money.)  Still, with such a great space to enjoy I find myself still thinking about that water feature despite how much we've accomplished.  So when we ran across a bird bath fountain for $29 on clearance, it was a compromise I was thrilled to find.  For the price,  I don't feel I've spent so much on it that I can no longer consider the long term goal and for now, it provides a smaller version of my vision.  The tinkling water is soothing and sweet and in this case, I can enjoy it now.  Next year when we are ready for the larger water feature, I'll find my birdbath fountain a home elsewhere in my yard or perhaps even pass it on to someone else.  The temptation was to purchase an expensive fountain because this would still be cheaper than the water feature on the to do list and it would be easy...bring it home and plug it in.  That would have been a mistake.  With a few hundred dollars invested, I'd be giving up what I really wanted. 

Find the sweet spots!  Look around and see if you can't find some small space that would be relatively easy and inexpensive to change and make that your first project.  By giving yourself that first experience of "instant gratification,"  you'll either be inspired for future planning or truly satisfied and consider yourself done!  For me, my back porch remains my sweet spot despite a double lot and new patio.  Nope, I still walk out onto my grampa's deck which is only large enough to accommodate a 2 chair bistro table and there I have my coffee.  Five hooks around the deck display asparagus ferns because I love the feeling of sitting inside of their lush green-ness and they soften the sun's heat.  They are cheap...$7.50 each.  That's my first yearly project, get the back porch ready.  It's the cheapest quickest fix on the list and once it's done, I can enjoy my sweet spot while I dream about the next project. 

As you see, I have offered no technical gardening advice.  I'm just not interested in the science of it.  I know what I like; informal cottage farmhousey bungolian. :) It follows then, that my simple casual style would be expressed in low maintenance plants and flowers.  I don't particularly like the manicured look of professional landscaping.  My yard is an extension of my home so why would it be anything different?  Once you've identified what makes you feel at home, you're on your way. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Very Good Weekend

The long weekend is winding down and it's time to put my brain back into working girl gear.  How can the past four days have gone so quickly?  Equally important, will the next four be just as quick? 
We finished our landscaping and have fallen into bed each night utterly exhausted.  It's a good tired, the kind that makes even an insomniac sleep tight!  I've awoken happily at 6:00 a.m. in the quiet and enjoyed my coffee on the back porch with only the birds and a sleepy hound dog to keep me company.  This is how I imagine my someday retirement will be, and it makes the thought of getting old quite a lot sweeter.
On Monday morning I sat on the back porch with my camera and when all was said and done, I had snapped over 200 photographs of the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and Donny as they went about their business.  As I was sitting there still in my pajamas with my coffee in one hand and my camera in the other, my mind does what it does best.  It wandered.
I've often suspected that the quiet exterior life of the introvert is because there is just so much swirling about on the inside.  Either that or I'm mentally ill.  Either way, it is what it is. 
The result of the thinking, which is just the usual for me, is a new blog and you'll find the link to the upper right.  It's called 3070 and it's just the written word that expresses the way I see the world.  It's not a fairy tale and it has nothing to do with magic.  The only purpose is that someday maybe my grandchildren will be amused to have a story that happens just a step away as they sit on the back porch with me. 
Because this is a "book" for my someday grandchildren, I'm not worried about readers or followers or comments.  Should you visit, you'll see my profile pic is different.  That's the me who is the voice of 3070, the reader, the thinker and the inwardly busy introvert.
What a good weekend it's been, I hope you feel the same.   Here's hoping that tomorrow morning after coffee on the back porch, I'll have the wherewithal to tear myself away and go to work!

The view from the back porch.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Long weekend

Bermscaping in progress

1.  Plants purchased for berm, next stop, planting them.
2.  Found a sweet little bird bath fountain clearanced for $27 & got the last one!
3. Time to push the fire pit to the side, campfire season has been temporarily suspended.
4. Current favorite drink; ice water with crushed ice & fresh lime.
5. Hair is barely long enough for a nubbin of a pony tail so guess how I'm wearing my hair?  It's too hot for vanity!
6. Speaking of vanity, I also have a giant sun visor.  I may look silly wearing it but I'll be looking lovely when I'm an old lady with young skin ;)
7. I need one or two of those hanging flower things that are actually plastic bags filled with flowers that grow over and cover the bags.  Where do I get those?
8. Why does Donny insist on drinking from the bird bath when he has a lovely large bowl filled with fresh cold water?
9. I lurv Burt's Bees lip balm.
10. I lurv my back yard.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Let's get this weekend started!

Got any Memorial Day plans?  If you've got a hankering to play in the dirt, come on by!  We're doing yardification this weekend.  I, in fact, have taken a last minute vacation day today and I'm off on the holiday so I'm on a four day weekend....yahoooooooo!  The Mr. just woke up and I said, "Hey let's get going!"  and he said, "I'm gonna lay down for a little longer."

May 2011, prior to patio & berm...

I considered having a little something on Monday but decided to spare myself that pressure, although it's a pressure I enjoy, to concentrate on flowers, herbs, veggies and shrubbery.  The Mr. installed the privacy fence around our berm and now it's time to add the fun stuff to finish it up.  I have peonies waiting patiently for a permanent home, for starters. I've already been on the back porch this morning enjoying the cool breeze and a cup of coffee.  Donny and I had a meaningful conversation about butterfly bushes as well as the benefit of evergreens in the attracting of hummingbirds.  He wagged his tail enthusiastically when I told him that Jesus loves us.  He loves Jesus too ;)
He and I took a peek at the berry patch and agreed we could wait for the rain tomorrow to water it.  He's very knowledgeable about these things.
So that's all the news from this new old house!  There won't be a fabulous barbecue this weekend but if you stop by to help landscape, I'll make you a tall cold glass of lemonade!

Mother's Day 2012, patio done and berm in progress...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

No wine before its time

I'm going to tell you a secret because I know we are BFFs and you won't repeat it.
I drank wine.  I know!
A while back some folks at work suggested a glass of wine before bed time to ease my insomnia.  It didn't work and it tasted gross.  I'm not sure the Mr. purchased me a quality wine as it came in a six pack.  Then a few weeks ago, I was given a bottle of pomegranate wine as a gift for my nomination during nurse's week.  Oh dear, does no one believe that I don't drink? 
Let me give you some idea of what I mean by I don't drink.  That means, having been born in 1967, I have never ever ever never ever had a drink.  I was on a 45 year streak.  This was fascinating to the people at work.  Not because they necessarily wanted to see me get liquored up (well, there is this one maintenance guy but we won't talk about him.)  They just couldn't understand why.  Why I was literally going 48 hours without sleep and yet dug my heels in about sipping a few ounces of wine.  Why I was taking over 100 mg of Benadryl within four hours trying to rest and yet drew the line at alcohol. 
So I looked them in the eye and explained, "I'm on a forty five year streak!"
And they looked at me with love and admiration and said, "But why?"
And then I looked at them and said, "Well,  because you are all going to hell."
Stated aloud, it seemed quite ridiculous.
So I brought home my pomegranate wine (you have to admit that sounds tasty.)   Then we sat around and discussed at length whether pomegranate wine was likely to A. taste better than that stuff the Mr. bought and B. was likely to send us to hell.  The conclusion was yes and no.
So we googled how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew because possession of a corkscrew is proof you're holding hands with the devil.  Then we opened that bottle up using a screw and pliers because that's classy and yet not evil.
Then we poured that wine into champagne flutes because that's what the Mr. bought during his previous foray into helping me sleep.  Then we googled how to drink wine.
Then we swirled it and admired the viscosity and held it up to the light and discussed woody overtones and hints of fruit on the tongue and poetry on the uvula.
Then we took our flutes of pomegranate wine outside and sat around the fire in the breezy twilight and drank it.
And then we went to hell.
Wait, no, that's not right.  So far the earth has not opened up and swallowed us. 
Of course, the other explanation is that we don't want to become drunks.  So far we're ok on that as well.
Then again, we don't want to get in a car and kill an entire family innocently driving their mini van down the road.  All minivans remains safe as of this writing.
The wine, pomegranate or otherwise, does not help me sleep.  It did teach me a lesson.  In the waters of my spirit, there are shallows where one runs aground and goes no where.
The no alcohol rule had its moment.  The moment was when I lacked the discipline and maturity to deal with it.  When I was underage and it was illegal.  But it is a rule, it is legality.  We Olde Time Christians can tend to love our rules. After all, that old time religion is good enough for me.  It proves we are set apart, in but not of.  Oh be careful little ears and eyes and mouth and feet...
We are sometimes afraid of our freedom in Christ.  Yes, you can indeed drink alcohol.  But you are not allowed to know of someone in need and not help.  That is the new rule.
We'd rather skip the wine and look the other way sometimes.
Oh be careful little rules because they can breed judgementalism and change set apart to set above.  They can be sticking points in conversations that ultimately do nothing to express the grace and joy of Christ in us.
I'd no sooner advise you to start drinking than I would to start over-eating.  Or being lazy or having a flat screen television when children don't have enough to eat in Africa.  Don't do any of that. Actually, it might be better if you had a glass of wine, lost some weight, started exercising and sponsored a child.
Our individual personal convictions will be different as Jesus seeks a relationship that is one to one, not one to some.
As for me, I've had a secret love of O'Doull's for quite some time.
And I cannot promise to never again have a sip of wine around the fire with people I love.
And ok, I'll admit it, I've looked at vineyards on and thought I might just take a day trip.
And Jesus loves me just as much as he did before I broke my 45 year streak.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Love Hate Relationships

1. I love planting time!
2. I hate a messy house.
3. I love my berry patch!
4. I hate insomnia.
5. I love the smell of tomato leaves!
6. I hate my butt.
7. I love coffee on the back porch!
8. I hate possums.
9. I love good hair!
10. I hate my hair (most days.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Worried about tomorrow

Matthew 6:34 basically tells us, "Don't worry about tomorrow."  I was thinking about that verse this morning as I was also thinking about my weight.   Then I thought some more and envisioned the pile of work on my desk that I absolutely must complete today even if that means an extra long work day.  I'll be honest, I was finding not worrying about tomorrow to be a lofty goal.  I could continue the list of stuff that has me worrying about tomorrow but I suspect you have your own list.
That list includes things that you look forward to and worry that you won't get to enjoy as well as things you need to take care of that are a dark cloud over your head; correct?  Yup, I figured as much.
So how does a responsible person who takes her responsibilities seriously not worry about tomorrow?  The enemy, excellent liar that he is, will convince us ever so subtly that the worrying is what proves we are dependable upright people. 
The remedy for worrying about tomorrow is the stewardship we demonstrate over today.  Or the lack thereof, in which case, there is reason to worry about the consequences we have caused ourselves looming just over the next sunrise.  My weight is indeed tomorrow's worry for every today that I am irresponsible with my eating and exercise.  My work, on the other hand, is not worry worthy.  It is piled as high as an elephant's eyyyyyyye and it seems like it's growing clear up to the skyyyyyyy! (Sorry, a little show tune makes the day nicer.)
However!  That work is part of my job and if I continue day by day doing my job well, tomorrow will indeed take care of itself.  If I have to work late?  That's also part of my job for which I receive a paycheck.  I need only worry if I squander my day and miss the deadlines for my reports and responsibilities.  The natural consequence will be self-imposed.  The very worst kind.
If you do not want to worry about tomorrow, take very good care of today.  Discipline your mind so that your words are sweet and wise and you will not dread facing the embarrassment of your behavior.  Discipline your time so that your responsibilities are well managed and you will not dread the boss knocking on your door or your kids not having clean clothes for school tomorrow.  Submit to the discipline of the Holy Spirit who will teach you that what you think of as unpleasantness today (such as not eating a donut for breakfast!) will spare you worry tomorrow (such as hating the way you look in the mirror.) 
Give today to Jesus, and don't worry about tomorrow.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Between the grass and sky

Finally, Michigan has crossed into planting season.  If you are not a Michigander, you may not realize it, but only a fool plants in Michigan before Mother's Day.  It doesn't matter if it was ninety degrees in April, Michigan weather is a wacky prankster.  We don't tempt her.
Although I usually go running amok at the local nurseries this time of year, I am proceeding with an admirable degree of self restraint.  Over the past few years we've been slowly (did I mention sloooooowly) doing some gentle changes to the yard in pursuit of permanent always been there looking improvements, our goal being very little in the annual family and focusing on perennials that will get better with age.  Last year we made the biggest leap when the Mr. and Mac put in our backyard patio.  My grampa put our back porch on years ago, which is actually a deck but doesn't back porch sound nicer?  Yes it does.
Beyond the back porch had always been a little square of lawn with not much to say for itself.  So we gave it a little thought for a few years, living in it and letting it tell us what it wanted to be.  If you don't understand the concept of a house or yard telling you what it wants to be, well, I don't know what to say.
Anyway, finally we decided upon a patio.  We also decided upon a privacy fence because this half of the yard has that fishbowl feeling many suburban homes have.  Really, we wanted a privacy fence just across the back (west) fence.  Well, our city, Dearborn doesn't allow privacy fencing taller than four feet.  Although we are not tall people, four feet didn't quite provide the privacy we were hoping for.
I'll tell you a little secret, we spent a good bit of time considering just putting up that six foot fence anyway.  We drove around and pointed out people with six foot fences in their yards.  We told one another that if a neighbor put up a six foot fence on the property line, we would be grateful.  We talked to lots of people who told us to go ahead and do it.  We decided to do it.  Then we decided not to do it.  Then I decided to write a very long story about it that would leave you wondering what makes you read this blog instead of doing something exciting like watching paint dry.
This is why we don't make impulsive decisions, we then impulsively change our minds.
So here's what we came up with.  Hello?  Are you still there?
We decided on a largish patio and behind it a berm.  A berm is an actual landscaping type term.  How do ya like that?  So the Mr. took the displaced dirt from the patio and built a berm, which looked like someone had buried Goliath in our back yard.  So then I made fun of the berm and Donny laid on it to warm his belly and Mac stomped it down and said, "Oh dad!"
Finally it was brought under control and the Mr. and Mac built a retaining wall around it and we all rested and said, "It is good."  And it was.
That was last summer and now it's time for the next phase and the stunning reveal of our final privacy fence decision.
We are indeed putting in a six foot privacy fence but we are moving it up a few feet away from the fence so as not to violate the city's code.  The fence will be the back drop directly behind the berm leaving a hidden walk way behind it and also, a place for Donny to run in pursuit of squirrels and so that the neighbors can still reach over the fence to give him cookies.
When the fence is done (in the next few weeks,) we'll start landscaping the berm.  I imagine that other than a few annual flowers that will be the extent of our yard budget this year.  We had planned on putting in a small water feature but that will probably be rescheduled to the 2013 plan. 
This weekend we did some cleaning up of the space.  The Mr. put in the fence posts.  Donny dropped several balls into the holes and may have lost a few when the Mr. set the poles in cement.  Consider it a time capsule.
We may be in year four, but every spring I'm so happy with the next phase of our plan.  On Saturday evening when our list of chores was finally done, the clouds blew aside on gentle winds and the sun was warm and bright and it was just exactly the way I remember the yard feeling when my grampa used to tend it.  Do you ever have those sentimental moments?  It made the work and the plans and the patience required a little sweeter because it made me think about another bunch of grandchildren running around this yard and sitting at a picnic table snapping green beans.  I can picture it, generations upon generations seeing the same sky. 

Starting the day, fire pit and chairs have been in use for a while.

Sitting on the back porch, look can see the berm and the fence posts!

Looking at side of garage from picnic table. 

Old water pump the Mr. got me at the antique store Up North.  Ceramic chickens that used to be on The Farm.

Bird feeder at the corner of the patio.

Bird bath

I like it.

Happy Mother's Day!

I've always secretly envied those moms who, with great purpose and intention, are the very picture of grace and gentleness.  I myself fell headlong into motherhood after looking at my husband and thinking, "Well, why not?"  Hardly a verse for a Mother's Day card.
Six months after the birth of my Why not? baby I was expecting again.  This time, looking at my husband and thinking, "Good grief, we need to watch more television."
All these years later, I have no photographs of sweet baby bumps or little baby feet held in daddy's hands. 
What I have are memories of knowing how to do what I had no idea how to do; be a mom.
I have what I have always had, a sureness in my soul that I could do this.
I come from a long line of women who respected no boundaries when it came to their children and grandchildren.  Who are touchers and scolders and cooks and prayer warriors.  And who were rarely the very picture of grace and gentleness.
I inherited a mother's heart that laughs with her children until she cries and who makes a home whose walls wrap its sons and daughters in a tight embrace.  No gentleness in the way we hold our babies.
If my wishes are granted, there will be more little ones running across my back yard and picking flowers with chubby grubby hands and looking up to see a fortress surrounding their little lives in the form of mama and daddy and gramma and grampa and great gramma and grampa...and their little spirits will settle within them, peaceful and happy.
They will have to settle for undignified laughter instead of graceful sweetness.  They will learn to be held tightly instead of gently.
Thank you Mom (who I often call Pat just for irritation's sake,) for teaching me to be a mom.
Happy Mother's Day. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012


1.  Nurses week is over!  It was long and tiring and yet renewing and fun.
2. Got my new glasses, love them! 
3. Mother's Day tomorrow and the fam's coming over :)
4. Because I love you I am telling you, no flip flops pre-pedi!
5. The Mr. is doing some fun landscaping in the backyard around the year at a time we're getting it done.  I predict completion three years after we're both in heaven.
6. I got an apricot mint candle for nurses week, it smells so amazing!
7. I cannot burn my new apricot mint candle at the moment, woke up with a headache from h-e-double hockey sticks and I need it to go away immediately because...
8. I am doing depression screening at the American Heart Walk and I need to be there by 9.
9. Did I mention my headache includes a side of nausea?
10.  Seriously, I need this headache to go away.

Friday, May 11, 2012

No God

Lately I've been quite obsessed with closed doors.  I've been thinking a lot of all of the "nos" God has directed at me.  I've almost decided to write a list.
House after house after house..."No."
Job after job after job..."No."
Career changes..."No."
Purchases I knew I needed, conversations I was sure I needed to have and the daily times when I'm not even asking for his input and God still pipes up with "No."
Pithy remarks on the tip of my tongue and..."No."
I'm gonna throw down the gauntlet and..."No."
I'm gonna take a cruise, I'm gonna move far away, I'm gonna get lasix..."No, no, no."  "No."
Well, looks like I've gone ahead and made that list.  At least he didn't say, "No."
Sometimes it's utterly lovely and stand up and testify worthy when you figure out why God said "no."  Doncha love those hindsight moments when you realize that you would've changed jobs to a company that went bankrupt a year later.  Shew!  Thank you Lord for watching out for me!  Hallelujah and look what the Lord has done!
Other times, however, I'm  looking around twenty years later and I still don't get it.  Sometimes God saves us so thoroughly that we never see the train that just barely missed us.  What a lesson in humility that is.  God of the universe saves us from things that we never knew threatened us and doesn't demand we take notice. 
The ultimate, "Because I said so."
How I wish that I could be so completely obedient that I never looked back and wondered why.  What I have finally figured out is that sometimes, the value of the "no" is that the Lord is prying one more of my chubby grimy fingers from my death grip around the world.
Sometimes the "no" is just because there's no value.  Just because I need the lesson in not needing the things of this temporary life so much. 
Simple mortal woman that I am, I can sometimes be stuck in the preface. 
You know what a preface is, it's the first few pages of a book.  The ones that give you a tiny glimpse or explanation of the story but that you could skip entirely without losing anything.  That's what birth to death is, you know.  It's the preface.  It's the tiniest part, the page and a half that barely introduces the chapters that matter.  How silly to keep re-reading the preface digging for the greater meaning when it's all there starting in chapter one.  Only for us, chapter one starts when we close our eyes here and open them in heaven. 
So God says "No." 
No, you aren't going to get that job you think you want because the one you have is what you need.
No, you aren't going to buy that house because it just doesn't matter.  It's in the preface and you keep thinking you're already on chapter 10.  Move on and look for the real beginning of the story. 
No, I have something beyond imagining in store on the list of "yes."

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


It's Nurses Week, always the week of Florence Nightingale's birthday.  There's no shortage of sappy essays and poems about nurses, so allow me to insert mine here ;)
Nursing isn't easy.  And it isn't as satisfying as it was even the short time ago (2004) that I started.  Third company payers own us and now nationalized health care is taking the knife already in the heart of what we do and turning it.  What was pierced is now being shredded.  Do I sound bitter?  Because I am truly not.  I am so, so so sad. 
If I were to do a time study, nurses would spend a great portion of their day meeting documentation requirements and not at the side of their patients.  Nurse hate this.  But if they don't do it, insurance won't pay.  And the people in case management and utilization review who are trying to get insurance to pay will tell our managers.  And our managers will chasten us and put in our performance evaluations that we don't document well.  No one in that chain is the bad guy.  They are trying to keep benefits intact and prevent patients receiving huge bills for care denied for lack of a comma or measure of hours slept.  I'm not exaggerating.
So we rush to document that the patient ate their sandwich but not their jello and that they were offered assistance with getting dressed but refused and needed a Tylenol for a headache of 6/10 and what we did to relieve their pain before administering that expensive medication and what their pain level was thirty minutes later including not only pain scale number but quality and duration of when they've experienced a similar headache before and what has helped and what has not helped.  Five minutes with the patient and twenty with the chart.
I'm not a political creature but I pray for those who are that they would have wisdom as this country enters into the next phase of what health care will look like.  I also pray for nurses who are exhausted and burned out not because of their patients needs but because of the other demands that are far removed from our hearts but will make or break our job security.
Will you pray for us?  Pray that good nurses don't finally throw up their hands and walk away.  Pray that our new nurses will not be so overwhelmed that they lose heart.  Pray that God will give us an added measure of skill and ability to meet the requirements of the ones who control health care and still be able to hold hands and share a joke or even a tear with our precious patients and their families. 
Finally, will you, at some point this week,  tell a nurse that they are appreciated and respected?  We don't necessarily need another coffee cup with a nurse's cap on it or a plaque with a poem.  We need to know that you see us.  That maybe you are impressed by us.  That sometimes, you are even amazed.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Clara Ford Award, Now they can walk a mile in their own shoes.

This evening, I attended an event at Henry Ford Hospital, the first annual Clara Ford Award for Nursing Excellence.  It's a pretty big to-do, nurses and nurse leaders from all across the system were there filling the auditorium and there was a fancy schmancy dinner afterward.
I'm not usually one to go to such shindigs but this time, it was out of my hands.  Because I was the Behavioral Health nominee for the Clara Ford Award for Nursing Excellence.  Don't feel bad if you're surprised, I was too!  The Henry Ford System philosophy is driven by what they call pillars.  Finance, Growth, Education & Research, Service, People and Community.  All of the system departments were encouraged to submit nominees under the specific pillars.  My department submitted my name.  If you're still surprised, that's ok.  I can 'splain.
The particular pillar under which my name appeared was Community and it was a result of The Shoe People.  As you recall, several months ago I started posting on this blog as well as my facebook about the need for shoes among our patients.  Many of them either have such ragged shoes that they are as good as none, or literally none at all.  We've struggled during my entire career to help these people; the need far outweighing the supply.  Can you imagine literally not having a single pair of shoes?  If you can't imagine it, you're not alone.  Neither can I.  Anyway, the response to my request was beyond anything I had imagined.  We went from not being able to meet most of our needs to outgrowing our available storage space for clothing and shoe donations.  We have donations piled up in the office of administrators just waiting for room on the shelf.  We've given shoes and clothing to the parents of pediatric patients!  We started looking for shoes but it was like an avalanche of love.  I have received boxes and boxes of shoes, clothing, coats, underwear, socks, bras, gloves, hats, books and money.  Generous checks mailed to me, someone who the sender has never met, to help these mentally ill people in Detroit, Michigan.  Not only did all of our patients get shoes, some of them got brand new ones donated by people who were raining down the love of Jesus on us.  In the cold Michigan winter, for the first time in memory...every single person went home not only wearing shoes but wearing warm coats.  With the warm weather now upon us, we've stockpiled the winter goods to make room for lightweight clothing.  We actually had to steal an administrative assistant from a physician to clean and organize the clothing closet!  And by the way, it's no longer a closet.  We took a meeting room and made it into our clothing closet.  The facilities guys had to install shelves and racks.  We now have a local Girl Scout group come in once a month to ROTATE THE STOCK! 
The news of The Shoe People went from this blog and facebook to the leadership of Kingswood Hospital to the leadership of Behavioral Health and is becoming the stuff of legends.  More importantly, I have patients regularly approaching staff because someone has told them, if you come to Kingswood, they'll give you a pair of shoes and anything else you need.  Here I sit, crying again!  You know what those kind of statement are, the seeds of faith that had long ago been buried deep beginning to grow in the lives of hurting people.  Someone cares.  The people at Kingswood care.  The homeless people of Detroit are telling one another, the people at Kingswood will take care of you!  And it is because The Shoe People will take care of them. 
My nursing team got me a tote bag to commemorate this amazing honor.  On one side  it says, "So they can walk a mile in their own shoes."  I hope I stop crying when I look at it at some point.  'Cause I'm gonna carry it everywhere!

Tote bag: Side One...sniff!

Tote Bag: Side Two

Clara Ford Award Program

Sara Smith, Behavioral Health (you can imagine "The Shoe People" inserted here!)
 This beautiful movement of Christ across the miles resulted in me being recognized for your work.  So I am passing my nomination on to you.  The Shoe People were nominated for the Clara Ford Award.  Congratulations. And thank you.
So what exactly do nurses do?  Well, let me tell you!
Nurses are mysterious creatures.  We work independently,  with other disciplines and under the direction of physicians.  Our scope has been described as 100 miles deep and 1,000 miles wide. 
We can do a little bit of everything everybody else can do and we know who can do what we can't.  We are the gatekeepers and the watchmen of your care and the only ones that will be at your side 24 hours a day.  We are the gatherers of your story and the ones who add the new chapters throughout your life. 
We are the ones who can read the notes of the doctors and tell your family what's going on when the docs have all gone home. 
We have super powers like knowing something is wrong by the look on your face as soon as we enter the room.  We can hear things from the hall way or through our stethoscopes and know exactly what's happening even though no text book can tell you how we do it. We can smell the status of your wound. Gross but true.
We can work today and come in tomorrow morning call the doctor and say, "Something changed," and if your doctor's smart, he'll come running.
We know what labs will reveal your body's secrets and what tests are a waste of time and usually, we are the ones who got them ordered or canceled.
We remember you from your last admission and know that you want your daughter called even if you're too sick to tell us and we know where to find her phone number.  We know you like your medicine after breakfast and that your feet are always cold and if you give us a few minutes, we'll know where your grandmother was born and what your hobbies are.  If we get a coffee break or a lunch, we'll probably spend it tracking down the earrings you lost in the emergency room or in the gift shop getting you a magazine.
We will yell at the nurse that worked the shift prior to us if your pain meds were due and you didn't get them and we'll be the nursing assistant's worst nightmare if your bed needs changing and it isn't done now.  NOW.
We'll go toe to toe with the biggest baddest doctor in the hospital and take him into the back room and point our finger in his face and threaten to break his knee caps if he doesn't do something about your constipation.
We are over weight and under nourished.  We are 4'11" and 6'4" and everything in between and we can run like an Olympian when we hear a Code Blue.  We will knock a co -worker on their butts to get to you if you need us. We can lift you with one arm from the toilet and tell you how pretty your eyes are in the process.
We will walk your wife to her car and hold her while she cries.
We drive through blizzards to get to you and work 16 hours even though we were scheduled for 8 because someones kid is sick and they didn't make it in.
We tell our spouses we can't talk about it when they ask how the day was because we will fall apart if we do.
We will tell our families we're never going back and get up the next day and go back.
We will be chewed out by our managers because you complained that we took too long to answer your call light when you had a question about how to order dinner.  And we will apologize.  And you will never know that we were delayed because we were four doors down singing Amazing Grace to an old woman with Alzheimer's so she wouldn't have to be restrained.
We have survived on stale crackers we found in the pantry and carry in our pockets and we never pee because that is exactly when your blood pressure will bottom out.
Our job descriptions say, "Duties as assigned." 
If only it was that easy.  It's the unassigned stuff that makes us nurses. 
What do nurses do? 
It depends, what do you need?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The King shall answer and say unto them, "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as you have done unto the least of these; you have done unto me."
Matthew 25:40

Ten things that have no particular importance

1. Did I mention I don't work weekends any longer?
2. My glasses should be in any day now, I'm so excited!
3. Nurse's week is next week, be sure to kiss a nurse
4. I started on my sleep meds on Thursday and I am feeling so much better.
5. I'm seriously considering monthly massages.
6. I have cramps, I always like to keep you apprised of the latest information.
7. I think today might be the day to move my house plants outside.
8. The Mr. bought me new patio lights and he will be so happy to hang those up today.  Yes he will.
9. I seriously need summer clothes.  Please send some, see number 3.
10. On second thought, just send money.  Please see number 3.

Thursday, May 03, 2012


Daboyz never had assigned chores growing up.  I know, it's a widely accepted hallmark of good parenting for even the littlest kids to have chores even if it's just to put their shoes away.  I'm not opposed, I just didn't adopt that particular principle in our home.
I always held the notion that we are a Family.  This means even more than the beloved Team.  Being a family means we are working together, not entitled to nor free of any particular anything other than we are and with that, we do...
As a full time homemaker for many years, I believed homemaking was my job.  The reason I did not leave the home and bring home a paycheck was because I was keeping the home running.  That meant clean, organized, meals, homework help, field trip chaperoning and duties as assigned ;)  If the Mr. came home from work to a messy house, I wasn't doing my job and that meant I should get off my butt and go earn a paycheck.  A home well-run by a full time homemaker is partnership.  A husband coming home to a mess and a wife who didn't leave the house to work doesn't have a partner, he has a burden.
This being my theory, I believe in the strength of character achieved by internal motivation.  One should be able to look around and identify what needs doing and do it.  A child might not realize that it's laundry day and there isn't a calendar saying it is, but I should be able to say to him, "Hey, do me a favor and strip your sheets this morning."  And it should be done.  Next week I might strip the sheets but look at my little guy and say, "Can you please put the clean dishes away?"  It's a matter of what needs doing now and who is best able and available to do it.  Family.
On those days when I don't need any particular hand with the household chores, my family is grateful for the luxury of just relaxing.  And on the days I do, they have always lent a hand with the attitude that of course, we do this together.
I never liked the idea that once the assigned chores are done, a person can walk away and leave others working.  We all work so we can all play.  It's not about a list of tasks on the fridge.
It's worked well for us.  My kids have learned throughout their lives to do the tasks of maintaining a home ad hoc.  My goal that they could some day look around and, without prompting, lend a hand, is working.
The Mr. always mows the lawn.  But when he's off work, we will often come home and find Mac has done the yard work.  Without a list on the fridge, without a text asking him to.  That's the goal.
Sometimes there's the request, and we have an unspoken contract that we honor the request.  We do not exercise the right to be martyrs and expect others to read our minds if we need help.  I don't resent calling the Mr. or Mac if I'm at work and asking them to clean the bathroom.  I have no interest in guilt as a motivator and find parents who use it weak and unappealing in their roles.  "After all I do for you and you can't even..." 
Even Jay, who has not lived with us for about four years, participates in the family's needs.  The other day I called him and asked him to stop at Walgreen's because I was out of facial soap!  And guess what?  He stopped at Walgreen's and called me back so I could tell him what to look for.  Silly?  Yeah, but still a credit to his perception of his role.
I'm not pro or con assigned chores.  I'm certaily not pro any kid being treated like Pharoah.  But for us, the mutual awareness of home and one another is resulting in an ever maturing strength of character and commitment that isn't limited to a list on the fridge.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Can you see me now?

Well hello!
Hope all of you are having a loverly week!  Mine has been busy but productive and good (so far!) I was due for new glasses so on Monday morning I took care of that chore and treated myself to all of the optical bells & whistles I usually don't get.  I chose frames that I loved instead of the ones "free" with insurance, I got the lightweight space age polymer lenses.  Well, I don't know if they are space age polymer but they are the light weight scratch resistant non reflective ones.  AND our optical insurance has improved, can you believe it?  Transitions lenses are now a part of our coverage.  That might not mean much to you but for those of us who wear glasses to drive, it means I will not have to squint & get a headache driving to the Kroger. AND I got my contacts which were partially covered.  We've never had insurance benefits for contacts.  I dropped a bit of money but I'm so excited to have glasses that are nice enough to wear on days I don't want to wear my contacts without looking like Mr. Magoo! I was surprised not to need readers.  I keep thinking it will surely be this year but it seems not quite yet.  The doctor says I might need them if I'm tired or reading very fine print.  I keep putting on the Mr.'s +1.00s but they don't really change anything. 
And here's a newsflash, my vision is terrible.  The doctor actually informed me of this vital information.  Apparently he presumed that I had never noticed that I'm blind as a bat.  Yes, you heard it here first...I can't even read the giant E!  I mean, I knew it was surely a giant E but had someone been tricky and changed it to an M, I'd have been given a seeing eye dog on my way out. Believe it or not, that doesn't get me too upset.  Of course, good vision would be wonderful and someday in heaven I'm gonna look through perfect eyes.  For now, I am actually just filled with gratitude that glasses and contacts correct it to slightly better than 20/20 and I'm able to get what I need to see properly. Blessed, blessed, blessed!
Tomorrow I have an appointment with the nurse practitioner who manages my anti-depressants for my yearly review and to talk about my insomnia.  By this time next week, I'll be well-rested and stylin' in my transition lenses :)