Out With the Old? Not so fast…

Yes, it’s a new year, so in with the new…but not without a shout out to some “old” that’s coming with me.

Liquid Fence
If you don’t have gardens, or gardens with animal problems—as in, your yard is their all-day buffet, Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent won’t offer much to you. But surrounded by woods, our yard often gives the impression we keep deer for pets, a veritable Disney land. Which we love. They have been known to stand on the side of the driveway and just watch while we pull our car out and close the garage door, and then they get back to grazing. But we don’t love the fact that over the years, our visitors have eaten large amounts of our landscaping. This largely natural product is about the best there is, keeping our graceful friends from munching our hedges with a mixture that includes “putrescent egg solids” and garlic. I get the concentrate, mix it with water, spray it on, keep my plants, and don’t feel bad at all.

Method Cleaning Products
I’ve loved these natural cleaning products for quite some time,  but after recently trying the 4x HE beach sage laundry detergent, I’m an even bigger fan. I love the clean packaging, the cheery colors, and the scents seal the deal.  Some of my favorites:  grapefruit, cucumber, and beach sage, my new bright turquoise laundry detergent. Happy cleaning!

Rose Lilies1-roselily
This is a personally spectacular find. Over the years of our marriage, my husband has enjoyed giving me lilies—plants and cut flowers, both Asiatic and Oriental varieties. He really likes lilies…but I really don’t. The blooms are too architectural, too stark, too unromantic. Until now. Rose lilies are ruffly, light, softly-scented, and have non-staining pollen. These wonders even have their own Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/Roselilyflowers/  Husband, gift me these ethereal wonders all you want.

Restorative Yoga
Is this a thing?  And where has it been all my adult life? Poses and practice that rely on gravity to create stretching and opening in the muscles and body. Finally, a yoga practice where I don’t end up feeling stiffer, more out of shape, or injured. After 25 minutes, I’m feeling relaxed, youthful, and ready to take on the next several decades!

Good Behavior
Every now and then, I discover a television show that I love so much, I don’t want to talk about it, share it, give an opening to anyone to say a bad word or not love it as much as I do. It’s mine, my secret pleasure. Outlander on Showtime was one such television event. (I can mention it now; it’s hardly a secret.) My 2016 find: TNT’s Good Behavior. I’m addicted. Michelle Dockery. Juan Diego Botto. (And where has he been all my adult life?) Shhhh….

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Wisdom of the Dead

skeletonOctober has been frightening this year. Not because of skeletons guarding doorways, ghosts in the trees, or dismembered body parts sticking out of yards. What’s frightening are the toxic fumes rising from the  cauldron of our election stew.

What would our predecessors think about how we are treating each other, the vitriol and baseness in these election-based exchanges in this civilized twenty-first century? I see banks of the dead, watching, pale and silent. Some I know–my parents are standing in the front–and many I don’t.

This audience of the dead is in agreement. While we the living are so not. They can’t sweat small stuff anymore, or even big stuff. They now understand division better than any of us, divided from earthly companionship, love, and joy.  Yes, They are divided from anger, pain and heartbreak, too, but what they no doubt remember most is harmony, synchronicity, and consideration.

Because if there is a heaven on earth, that’s where it lies.

I wish these dead could speak to us. In their later years, my parents heard the siren call of “the system is rigged.”  They felt that those in power, the “new world order,” were power hungry and evil, out to ruin the rest of us. With the distance of years, I see my parents having this reaction to counter an overwhelming loss of control, of their lives and their bodies. That we are in control is an illusion in the first place, I think, but as we get older, the veil between this illusion and reality gets much thinner. Reality can be hard.

“The system is rigged” resonates as a reaction to humans feeling “I can’t get what I want.” None of us  get exactly what we want, even though we may work diligently toward a particular goal for years. The system is designed that humans will always have challenges, surprises, and shocks; if we are not growing, we are dying. No wonder people build up resistance, fear, and anger to a Sisyphusian nature of existence, rolling a boulder uphill only to see it roll down again. When too much seems out of control, we want someone to blame. Must be the people in charge which means–hey, it’s the  government.

Is this the grown-up version of blaming your parents for your problems? Blame the government, or the wealthy employers, or really both, since they are the “system.” And when our culture broadcasts this on a large scale, what is the effect on the upcoming generations? The system is rigged! Why work or try to get ahead? Overthrow the current system!

The dead groan in unison. Has history not yet convinced us as a species that democracy, for all its difficulties, is one of the better systems there is? Perhaps the best? No, revolution is not the answer. Unless that revolution means taking responsibility, all of us, for the divisive poisonous stew we are swimming in. Human existence, and politics, is a see-saw, a balancing scale; sometimes events tip in favor of you and your beliefs, sometimes the tip is in my favor. What our elders, and those who have gone before would tell us on Halloween, when the veil between the dead and the living is at it’s thinnest of the year, is this: “Grow up. Stop throwing tantrums and trying to get your way. No one consistently gets their way, ever. The human system is rigged to make sure of that. Start sharing toys and figuring out how to play nice.”

Shame on us for acting so selfishly and childishly. That’s what the dead would say. But they can’t talk anymore. They only listen. What wisdom they could offer from the other side of the divide. Divisiveness is hell, they’d say, but hearing each other while you still can, then leaning in toward harmony, not discord, is the closest thing to heaven–on earth.

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The Magic of Buried Banana Peels

azaleasWhy didn’t I stop my elderly and disheveled mother from scooting out to the rose bushes flanking our front door to bury the breakfast banana peels? The short answer would be: she’s my mother. The longer answer would be: she so believed those banana peels would help my roses, she had me half-convinced, too. That was how we rolled, for decades. So firm were her beliefs about any number of  VERY outside of the box things, that I couldn’t unequivocally decide she was wrong.

So I didn’t stop her from rooting around under the rose bushes, even though I was uncomfortable with the activity for a number of reasons.  Foremost was the fact that this woman who was still climbing trees to prune them when she was in her sixties, and showing off her can-can kick in her seventies, was now in her late eighties, post a few strokes and the passing of my father.  She was frail, unsteady on her feet, and had retreated deep inside herself, courtesy of depression and beginning dementia. Second was the fact I wasn’t super supportive of burying any of our garbage a few feet from the front door, especially in daylight, and I wasn’t too sure my neighbors would be, either. And third, while I was open to the fact that the peels might help the roses, I was also concerned that rooting around the rose roots in the dirt among the few remaining strawberry plants that were supposed to be ground cover could be more harmful than helpful to that little front walk ecosystem.

I also didn’t stop her because my mother loved to garden; one of the only joys she had left. It didn’t bring a smile to her face; nothing did at that point. But fussing over plants was about the only place where present-day challenges would fade, and she would lose herself out in my yard, burying banana peels or pulling weeds, or in the house, walking around grooming my houseplants. Gardening was a comfort, one she’d enjoyed as long as I could remember. If I made her come in the house, or stopped her from taking her tipsy weak self up the stairs to complete her houseplant routine, what was a saving her for? If she died gardening, I knew she’d be happy.

My mother has not been in my garden for a number of years, or any garden for that matter, except perhaps a great garden in the sky. If we have any say in what our heaven is, my mother is gardening. My indoor and outdoor plants now survive despite the care, or lack thereof, that I and my husband can give them. Even with her crazy schemes, my mother was a better influence on any garden than I probably will ever be, even with a horticulture degree as one of my credits.

But I did inherit my mother’s curiosity about plants and what makes them grow. So last week, years after those banana peels were laid to rest under my roses, as I researched the answer to the garden legend that peonies need ants to bloom (they don’t), I stumbled upon banana peels under the rose bushes. Roses supposedly like buried banana peels because they increase soil potassium. However, the soil microorganisms breaking down those banana peels have to extract nitrogen from the soil to complete their job, so the soil can end up low in nitrogen along the way, and without even much potassium to show for it. A net negative. Composting the banana peels first is the way to go, followed by spreading compost around the roses.

I may have also inherited impatience from my mother. Who wants to wait for months down the road for the banana peels to be composted, after all that monotonous effort of liming and turning?  Burying banana peels to make your roses bloom is magical, a fairy tale we want to be true. Practical is important, but magic is imperative.

Note to son: the day I shuffle my silver-haired self out to scatter used coffee grounds under the azaleas in your yard, let me be! I’m doing just fine.

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May Day Magic Indeed!

1-FullSizeRenderDoes this look like fun or what?! This art is from the lovely book Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions by Sarah Ban Breathnach, a must have for families wanting to continue some of the delightful seasonal traditions practiced in the Victorian home.

I’m forever  attracted to traditional festivals attached to nature and the seasons.  Add spring flowers and streamers of pastel ribbons, and what’s not to love?  May Day is a natural for me, and dancing the May Pole has happily been checked off my bucket list. While I might have imagined a daytime version of dancing in the woods under the moon in a light muslin shift accompanied by Van Morrison’s Moon Dance, the actual experience of dancing the Maypole was a lovely one nonetheless.  My son’s Waldorf school had built a Maypole in the school yard and the school’s families,  from toddlers to grandparents, gathered in the spring air on a sunny May day to take a turn holding onto one of the ribbons and moving gracefully in a counter-clockwise circle around the pole accompanied by recorder music. Magic indeed. And may I add, my son’s school also added the tradition of serving fresh baked shortcake with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream, an inspired addition if there ever was one.

Another May Day tradition is the creation of May baskets.  Early in the morning, children in the Middle Ages gathered wildflowers to create baskets that they secretly left for friends and neighbors. Tradition said that if they were discovered, they had to run back for a kiss.

How romantic is that!!  Too romantic to be left there, I decided. So this alluring tradition became the seed from which blossomed (at least I like to think so) my contemporary romance, May Day Magic. Single mother Diane enlists the help of her two children to create a May Day basket to deliver to her ailing mother, their grandmother. She’s all thumbs when handsome plant nursery owner Marc joins in to help select the flowers.  Diane has also secretly created May baskets for her children as a surprise they will discover when they return from delivering their grandmother’s basket. But there’s one more surprise coming, this time for Diane. Marc’s got a little May Day magic of his own in mind…

Here’s to enjoying some May Day magic with Marc and Diane, and making a little May Day magic of your own!

May Day Magic on Amazon

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Secrets of the Universe: Unisex Dressing?

secretslogoWhy is it okay for women to wear men’s clothes, but not okay for men to wear women’s clothes? 

I’ve worn men’s clothes for as long as I can remember. I have older brothers, and pulling on their tee-shirt at the beach or their sweatshirt to warm up on an evening was always fine with me. By high school, I was obsessing on when my brother would  hand-me-down his jeans: worn-in Levis to be specific. In my eyes, worn-out guy’s Levi jeans were the ideal wardrobe complement for the men’s construction boots my friends and I were wearing daily, which we paired with lacy fifties-era vintage blouses and Grandma-style button cardigans. Hot we were!

Now we take unisex clothing for granted, yet unisex shopping takes us to fashions designed for men that women also wear. Flannel work shirts, tuxedo shirts and pants, cummerbunds, sleeveless undershirts, always jeans, surf shorts, Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, combat boots, bomber jackets, and the list goes on…

Levis-501-MonroeWhy doesn’t the unisex pendulum swing the other way? Fashions designed for women that men wear? Guys are making inroads in unisex dressing in the jewelry arena, but that’s about it. Guys wearing ruffles? Eh, not so much in this country. Skirts? No, for the most part, we still think men in skirts is strange. Would you buy a tunic beach cover up for your man? I can’t even conjure this look in my imagination, can you? Men, would you slip on a strappy platform sandal to go with those summer-time shorts? We would think this ridiculous. But why? How fair is that?

And so we come to this week’s Secrets of the Universe question for our panel:  Why is it fine if women wear men’s clothes, but not-so-much if men wear women’s clothes?

B: While I do find this unfair (which is how this landed as a panel question in the first place), I can’t say I’m fantasizing a change. I like wearing men’s clothes. And I like my men wearing men’s clothes, also. But to any men wanting to wear women’s clothes, I support you!

D: Exactly. That is the question. It makes no sense to me. The dominant group will not dress in the subordinate group’s clothing. But the subordinate group can dress in the dominant group’s clothing, and that’s cute. A sexist society.

P: American men are afraid homosexuality is catching. They don’t want to sleep on pink sheets, let alone wear feminine clothes.


R: Ball gowns are designed to highlight certain areas men just don’t have. Metrosexuals are wearing more feminine fashion. Men wear pink. Ruffles just aren’t in right now!

Does this mean that when women completely obliterate those glass ceilings, we will come home from the office to be welcomed by darling men wearing our embroidered ruffly-edged pink silk robes?  Hmmm, this panel author needs to cogitate on that one…

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Better Than Chocolate?

secretslogo

Is there a better candy than chocolate?

Easter may be eleven days away, but I doubt I’m the only one already thinking about Easter candy. If one is looking for a reason to fall off the candy wagon and eat an unfettered amount of candy, I don’t think there is an easier place to slip than Easter. It’s one day when the Easter baskets come out; one and done. And if we just got through winter, we need a reward; time to have some candy fun!

The fun starts with Peeps. I ADORE Peeps. I don’t find them edible, but they are unparalleled as a base for artistic creations. Jelly beans are a magnificent creation, supposedly a marriage of the sweet sticky confection originally named Turkish Delight and the shell coating of a Jordan almond. Flooding my senses with Skittles jellybeans is a real guilty pleasure. And you don’t have to twist my arm too hard to have me eating speckled malted milk eggs, another great invention.

I have yet, however, to figure out chocolate bunnies. I ate them as a kid, but really, with very rare exception, this is not good chocolate. Chocolate bunnies belong in the nostalgic Easter prop department; fun to look at, not to eat.

Then this begs the question: does Easter need to include chocolate? If it’s the best candy, then of course, but is it?  I turned to my panel.

B: Chocolate is one of the best candies, and therefore, earns a place at Easter and every other holiday. Along with Skittles and anything containing caramel or toffee.

D: I don’t think of chocolate so much as a candy, but a food group.  There is not a candy better than chocolate. Really, dark chocolate.  White chocolate is an abomination. Like white is the absence of color, white chocolate is the absence of chocolate. I think white chocolate is my husband’s favorite because he knows it is the one I will never eat. 

P: I am not a chocolate lover. I like Heath Bars more than chocolate bars but more often just go for jelly beans.

R: Yes: jelly beans. I can resist chocolate. I cannot resist jelly beans. When my kids were small, I would always have to go buy more jelly beans to make their baskets. No gourmet jelly beans; no spicy jelly beans. Traditional jelly beans. I toss away the second tier–blacks, greens, and yellows–and eat the reds, whites, pinks, purples, and oranges. 

I am not the only one thinking about Easter candy! Half the panel has reason to cheer for this time of year with its increased availability of jelly beans!!

What’s in your Easter basket?

partypackschicks

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Seven Plates at the Table

denisesevenplates      When a fellow writing group member publishes a book, we don’t necessarily snatch it right up so we can read it because we basically have “read” it, some sections numerous times. And yet…we still like to see the final product, after the edits. So I leisurely started Seven Plates at the Table by Denise Waldron (also one of my Secrets of the Universe panel members) this past weekend, and ended up reading to the end before the weekend was over! This final product is a winner.

Denise creates characters we recognize instantly. And because they feel like family, we want to know what happens from the first page. We’re worried that not-good things are coming for these basically good people. Greta, the grandmother wants Thanksgiving, and every other holiday, to play out like an animated Norman Rockwell illustration. George, her husband, prefers his wife happy so he can do what he does which is take the occasional electrical job and enjoy his semi-retirement. Their children Emily and Alan can’t figure out how they could be brother and sister since they are so different. Emily’s bought an old farm cottage and is raising goats, while Alan, a stressed-out financial adviser clawing up the ladder of success, lives in a big beautiful house with his perfectly-groomed fundraiser wife Isabel and their well-managed five-year-old son Henry.But George is hiding something. And so is Alan, something his wife couldn’t even imagine. It’s Carl, Emily’s new boyfriend, who begins to shake up the status quo. As facades start to crumble, everyone wants to protect Henry.

This is a quietly seductive book about the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others, and the irreparable damage that can follow. Seven Plates at the Table is Denise Waldron’s second book, and she just gets better as she goes. I can’t wait to read her next book…

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Guns On The Train

secretslogo Does Bernie Sander truly believe that carrying guns and ammo in  luggage on a train is the same as carrying guns and ammo in luggage on a plane? 

One of the first times I watched Bernie Sanders on television as he started down his presidential campaign trail, the subject of guns came up, and Bernie Sanders likened guns checked in baggage on a plane to guns in carry-on baggage on a train.

I had an uncle in Maine who went moose hunting with friends once a season in Canada. I’m surmising they took the train and packed their guns. I understand that there are valid reasons why people travel with guns, but we live in a different world now, a world where ensuring community safety may necessitate infringing on personal privilege. Personally, I’d like to get on a plane without taking off my belt and shoes and watching my purse disappear down a conveyer belt and out of my sight while I’m imprisoned behind the scanner gate. With a dichotomy in solutions for the “gun control problem,” either increasing gun control legislation so getting a gun is exceedingly difficult for all of us, or expanding gun availability and legality so we can all carry a gun and be ready to shoot back, I wanted to hear what The Secrets of the Universe panel had to say.

B: TSA is now using methodologies, like Precheck, to create scenarios where we can keep our shoes on and our socks clean and still maintain the safety of the flights, but I can’t imagine a pre-check methodology that would permit a passenger’s ammo and gun in the main cabin and still maintain the safety of the flight. No guns in the plane, and no guns in the train. Bernie Sanders, you got caught out on this one.

D: I don’t want guns and ammo with me anywhere without my permission and my permission is never granted.

P: I don’t think guns and ammo should be anywhere in public. Bernie Sanders comes from Vermont, a gun-toting state, so he was obligated to his constituency to go there, but I do not think he believes it.

R: Equally bad. Just can’t bring the plane down, but can take everyone down in Baggage Claim. Let me know if people are carrying guns on my train and I’ll drive.

Someone looks silly here: either you, Bernie Sanders, for selling these two scenarios as synonymous, or us because we were expected to jump under that umbrella and agree with you? Uh-huh. Unanimous on this one: No Guns On The Train.

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Necco and I Celebrate Anniversaries all about Love

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This year Necco, the New England Confectionery Company, is celebrating the 150th anniversary of their pastel candy conversation hearts by asking people to share “stories of sharing, love, friendship and words from the heart.”

Today I’m celebrating the first day of my newest romance, I’m Sure, sharing this story about friendship and love, and words from a conversation heart. Pond designer Megan is not sure she can trust a man again, and Jason, a firefighter, is the poster boy for unpredictable. Is St. Valentine powerful enough to bring these two together?

Watch for a special appearance by a lavender conversation heart with pink letters spelling out I’m Sure.  But neither Jason or Megan are so sure in the beginning. Find out how a candy heart brings these two together in time for Valentine’s Day!  On sale today at:

http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=6631

 

 

 

 

 

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Answers Are Here: Secrets of the Universe

secretslogoTo conquer the questions that plague me, I am undertaking Secrets of the Universe, a blog series to explore some of life’s greatest conundrums like…is there a certain age beyond which a woman should not wear an unnatural shade of nail polish? Does Bernie Sanders truly believe guns and ammo in your checked luggage on a plane is the same as guns and ammo in the luggage over your head on the train? Should hospitals be nonprofit? Cracker Jacks or Fiddle Faddle?
Courageously stepping forward to take on this weighty task, the members of the Secrets of the Universe Panel (alternatively, The Four Pillars):
B – writer; mother of one favorite son; married to a coach who honorarily adopts honorary sons who play basketball; floral designer.
D – writer; mother of artistic college-aged daughter and son who just left the nest; married to a patron of the arts; organic gardner.
P – writer; mother of a stand-up comedian son; partnered with Ricky Riccardo, a rescued Lhaso Apso; realtor.
R – writer; mother of two musically-inclined college-aged boys; married to The Nicest Man in the World; tour guide.

Need I say more? Stay tuned for the first installment…

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