Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winding Down Wednesday

Wonderful, White, Wheaty, Writing Wednesday

Weary Wednesday could be included in my alliteration because it’s 9:06 and I stopped working just moments ago. In an effort to focus on what’s was wonderful about Wednesday, I’ll instead note the most worthy aspects of the day.

Writing with my Waterman fountain pen: I wrote from 6:30 to 8 a.m. A worthy way to wend into Wednesday.

White Christmas cactus blooms whetted my appetite for more blooms to come in this month of Christmas cactus splendor.

Wheat was on the menu after the delightful scent of baking bread wafted throughout the house for a few hours.

                                What was wonderful about your Wednesday?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monarchs Don't Settle for Less—Why Should We?

When Is It Okay to Settle for Less?

Even Monarchs Sometimes Refuse a Flower

Migrating Monarchs loved the fall-blooming asters in my Massachusetts garden.

I don’t often see Monarch butterflies in my Florida flowerbeds, so when one visited last week, I noticed. Lone traveler that it was, I figured it was migrating a bit late from the northern climes in search of warmth and flowers, which were abundant in my yard that day. I watched and waited for the butterfly to light on a flower and replenish its supply of nectar before fluttering off to Mexico or maybe even Miami. It kind of had that “just passing through” aura about it. More than that, it almost seemed agitated, like a weary, wary traveler who has stopped at the first available rest stop, thrown the car into park, and run to the restroom before getting back on the highway and driving another 100 miles.
Unlike such a traveler who might be content to sling back a cup of coffee or caffeinated beverage to assist in completing his or her journey, the Monarch was having none of this fast-food business of drinking what was available and then dashing on its way. It had a certain drink in mind.

Desert Rose was a non-choice for the Monarch. Sweet enough for the Fritillary,
but it didn't make the cut for the Monarch.
Gerbera Daisies thrill most gardeners and flower shop patrons, but
the Monarch was blind to their charms.
My flowerbeds have flowers—lots of flowers—so I was perplexed as I watched the Monarch flit from flower to flower, yet only hover and not stop. Marigolds? Uh, uh. Heliotrope? Nope. Periwinkle? Not having it. Gerbera daisies? No way. Mexican petunia? No. Salvia? Guess again. Porterweed—a choice of coral or lavender? Not quite. Lantana? That’s a city. Buttercups? Yes, yes, and yes, but, and a huge but it was, Buttercups bloom only until about midday, and because Ms. Monarch was visiting late in the afternoon, the Buttercup blossoms were all closed. Again and again, Ms. Monarch fluttered down to the closed buds, lifted gracefully in flight, fluttered down again, and lifted again. Ms. Monarch flew about the other flowers and in a spirit of disdain, ignored them and continued to scan the Buttercups, only to find each bud closed tight, its nectar unavailable.
Had the Monarch come earlier in the day, this Buttercup
would have been open and nectar filled.
The more Ms. Monarch attempted to sip the Buttercup nectar, the more annoyed she seemed to become. Her flight became impatient as she flew close to the other—unwanted—flowers, and then again tried the unavailable Buttercup buds. I could almost sense a tantrum coming on and wondered to myself, “Now what would a butterfly tantrum look like?”
After a few more frustrated attempts at the buttercups, Ms. Monarch fluttered south across the yard and away—maybe Miami or Mexico might have what she wants.
As I watched the lone Monarch make its way to parts unknown, I thought about “knowing.” That butterfly knew what it wanted. That butterfly was certain what it wanted. That butterfly wanted Buttercup nectar and only Buttercup nectar and refused to settle for less. In my opinion, Gerbera daisies, marigolds, Mexican petunias, and especially heliotrope are far from “less,” lovely flowers that they are, but that didn’t matter to the Monarch. Painted Lady and Fritillary butterflies are thrilled with my other flowers, as are the bees, but Ms. Monarch wasn’t having any of them.
This Fritillary loves the marigolds, unlike the Monarch,
who wanted only Buttercups.
Ms. Monarch did not settle for less than what she wanted. I believe in compromise for certain, but watching Ms. Monarch helped me stop for a few minutes, and consider what it’s like to not settle for less so often. What it’s like to know what I want and to go for it. There’s a lesson in the refusal of the Monarch. In a culture where so much is available, it’s easy to take coffee from the vending machine when we want a clear, cold glass of water. It’s easy to accept little when we deserve so much. It’s easy to drink the nectar of the marigold when we really want a buttercup.
In what ways can I, can you, today and every day, look at the choices we have in front of us and decide whether we’re going to take what’s there just because it is there, or whether we’re going to search for the Buttercup?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No More Back to Black

Black Widow? Black Mood? Black Cloud?
Black Comedy? Black Sheep? Black Friday?

I Much Prefer Pink!

As a culture, Americans must come up with another name for the day after Thanksgiving. We go from being grateful for everything we have to being Black about what we must buy in the omnipotent American frenzy to acquire, to consume, and to be the first to acquire and to consume, even if it means reneging on the custom of lazing away a holiday weekend in the company of those we most love.
 “In the black” didn’t used to have such a bad name. Retailers anticipated the season when the books went from in the red to the profit line of in the black. That connotation—for retailers at least—has been lost in the new, negative connotation of Black Friday. Black Friday now includes the following dangers:

·      Being trampled to death
·      Having disaffected fellow humans walk by your prone, heart-attack-seized form to get to the next special
·      Being temporarily blinded by pepper spray
·      Being robbed and/or shot in a parking lot
·      Losing sleep to be the first in line
·      Fighting among the folks for whom someone must be grateful
·      Contributing to the massive influx of American money to foreign shores
·      Adding to personal debt
·      Filling our landfills with never-degrading plastic
·      Continuing one’s effort to fill the God hole with stuff

On post-Thanksgiving Friday, I stayed in my pajamas most of the day. (To be honest, I wore my PJ top all day, but late in the day, I donned a pair of well-worn, much-loved Levi’s.) I relaxed. I read a book, I puttered in the kitchen, I played with my plants, I returned recipes to the holiday section of my recipe notebook.
On post-Thanksgiving Friday, I also paid attention. On the day when news reports filled my psyche with so much that is wrong with our culture, I noticed something else. To herald the Christmas season, my Christmas cactus opened its first bloom. Shimmering pearl colors set off by bright pink edges demonstrated everything that can be right about the day—any day. Noticing and appreciating a gift of nature, a simple thing, a bloom on a plant became my gift to myself—a gift I share now. Next year, I’m going to start calling it Pink Friday.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day Revisit of "The Walking--and Falling--Wounded"

Feeling Free? Thank a Veteran

Veteran's Day is today and I am rerunning a blog that originally was published on May 26, just before Memorial Day. Please read it again, and as you do, consider thanking a veteran today--and every day.

By Christine Clark
SEAL, that’s an animal that swims in the ocean? Wrong. Until about six years ago, that definition of SEALs was the only one I knew. My military-oriented son taught me different. Navy SEALs are a group of Special Forces soldiers, very, very Special Forces. Somalia pirates and the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden put the SEALs on the front page of every newspaper in the United States and on every news Web site for weeks.
The glory heaped on the SEALs has not gone unnoticed by those who would steal the honor of being a SEAL. The real SEALs have a group that has revealed more than 35,000 phonies. Steve Waterman, a retired Navy diver, stated, “There were about 500 SEALs…in Vietnam, and I’ve met all 20,000 of them.”
I knew the man I recently saw in a consignment shop near Daytona Beach was not one of the fake SEALs. A working man, he looked as if he had done some hard labor that Saturday. He was in the store to pick up some furniture for his fiancée. He wore a SEAL cap and had SEAL tattoos on both arms. “He’s a SEAL,” my son Paul said. We watched the SEAL out of the corners of our eyes and decided to just leave him alone. It’s only been a few weeks since the Bin Laden raid and we figured he was probably inundated with people talking about it. He did his service, and we felt he was entitled to shop in peace on a Saturday afternoon.
When I left the store, I stopped to chat with his fiancée while the SEAL and his son carried furniture to a waiting truck. I told her we wanted to thank him, but were reluctant. She said he doesn’t mind talking, often does speaking engagements, and that sharing his experiences helps him work through many of them. He served our country for 20 years and has been retired for 10 years. She told a story of him running during a battle, and wondering why his leg felt odd. He looked down and realized he had been shot in the foot. I noticed that he limped a bit as he walked to the store between loads and figured that was why.
We asked her to please give him our sincere thanks for serving our country. She said she would. I could tell she is so proud of him.
As we drove out of the parking lot, I happened to glance back, and saw that he had fallen onto the sidewalk near the truck. His fiancée and her son were next to him. We could tell he was not seriously injured so we went on our way. I caught a glance at his face and, to me, he looked embarrassed, like it wasn’t okay to fall. I don’t regret not stopping because it was obvious our presence would have been invasive.
The look on his face haunts me. I wish he and any others who have served us and served us so well, would never feel what I saw on his face. I believe it is okay for him and for thousand of others like him to fall, because without them, who knows how far our country and our very lives might have fallen?
Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day. It really is not just about beaches and barbecues. Thank a soldier not only that day, but every day.

SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land. The first Navy SEAL teams formed in 1942 during World War II in Ft. Pierce, Florida, just south of where I live. To find out more about the SEALs, the Navy has a site you can visit:
If you want to know more about the history of the SEALs, Ft. Pierce, Florida, has the only, and very cool, I might add, Navy SEAL Museum in the United States ( The most fun I’ve had in years has been at the annual Veteran’s Day Muster at the Museum in Ft. Pierce.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thankful While Walking the Dogs?

Gratitude for a Wide Berth of Safety

Rosie and Deek, my Black Lab-Virginia Coon Hounds, can be trying on the best of days. I’m not one of those “dog people,” even though I do love them. I’m not one to gush over animals, and Cesar would be appalled at my dogs’ behavior (as am I), but I take care of them and part of that care is walking them daily—several times a day.
Rosie and Deek’s keen desire to hunt means a daily walk is often a challenge; they sense, they sniff, they want to blast off into the woods and find whatever it is that produces that delightful aroma. At 5 foot, 2 inches, and 115 pounds, it can be difficult to rein in the two of them when the aroma beckons.
Since we left the two-acre-plus house in MA and I no longer can let the dogs loose into the fields, I know the saying, “keep them on a tight leash” is no cliché. I often must restrain them from more than the “chase,” because of other dangers of which they are unaware. Dim bulbs they are, these dogs have no clue that cars and trucks and vans will hurt them, so I also keep them on a tight leash whenever vehicles approach.
It is obvious that many drivers believe the speed limit is optional, so I take extra care when walking Rosie and Deek and often step off the side of the road to give us an extra-wide berth of safety. Not always, though. As soon as they see us, many, many drivers head as close to the center line as they can and if there is no oncoming traffic, they even go over that line to give us an ever-wider safety zone. Often, they smile and wave, and I smile and call out “Thank you.” (I can’t wave because I have a leash in each hand.) Two mornings ago, I was on our unpaved street and the approaching van almost steered off the road to give us extra room. I realized how thankful I am for the drivers that give so much consideration and care for my safety and that of Rosie and Deek.
It’s a little thing, but simply being aware of the many ways I can be grateful each day changes me and changes my environment, even when walking the dogs.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Good Grief and Guacamole

A Step Away from Mourning and Back into Life

Ripe avocados sat on the kitchen counter. Still dazed from the aching, numbing grief that had taken over my psyche, my body, my everything, I glanced at them, barely seeing them. Six days earlier, I held my darling seven-year-old Alexa in my arms as she took her last breath, losing a sixteen-month battle with brain cancer. Looking back from a twenty-five year perspective on this anniversary of her death, November 2, 1986, I remember water-walking through those early days. I say water-walking because in my memory, whatever I did, I felt like I was underwater, worse than in a fog, worse than in some sort of altered state. I was heavy, too heavy to move, although I did.
In those six days, I don’t remember much of what I did. I know I spoke to people on the phone. I showered, I made arrangements, I probably ate. I dressed myself. I went to Alexa’s funeral. Those memories are covered with a film, almost as if I view them with eyes covered with Vaseline. Present, but not present, because the present was too much to bear.
Family members flew back to their homes, food brought by friends and neighbors was eaten, and one guest remained—my father-in-law.
I looked again at the avocados and announced to my husband, his father, and my surviving daughter, “These avocados are ripe. Someone should make guacamole with them.”
“Sounds good,” my husband said. “Why don’t you go ahead and make some?”
“What? Me make guacamole? I can’t make guacamole. I can’t do anything,” I thought to myself as I looked at the ripe fruits. And then I reconsidered. “Why not?” I asked myself. “I know how. I can do this.”
I got out the cutting board, the knife, the garlic, the onions, and the salt and pepper. I don’t remember all the steps I took that day, but I imagine they were similar to the steps I take whenever I make guacamole. The difference was my body was leaden. Lifting my arms and using my hands took more effort than seemed possible to do something simple like peel and mash avocados and chop some onions and garlic, and shake in some salt and pepper. My movements were alien, foreign.
I made guacamole, but I don’t remember eating guacamole. I don’t remember even tasting the guacamole. What I do remember is that making guacamole was the first real, tangible non-grief-related thing I did in the early days of mourning.
I’m a firm believer in mourning, in grief, and in taking one’s time to heal from devastating loss. I’m also a firm believer in taking steps back to the land of the living, life, and joyeven if that joy springs from something as basic as making food for the people you love. I will forever be grateful for the ripe avocados on my kitchen counter and the simple suggestion to make some guacamole.

Guacamole Recipe 

My guacamole recipe is so simple. Mash ripe avocados, mince onions and garlic and add them to the avocados. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper. My former husband thinks I have some sort of magic ingredient or method because my guacamole is the best most folks have ever eaten. None is ever left over, the bowl is just about licked clean. I have no explanation for the extraordinary flavor and appeal, except that I love avocados, I love guacamole, I love life.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Soul42—Thank You Douglas Adams

It’s the End of the World As We Know It

NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—begins today, as it has each year since 1999 on November 1. I tried to write a 50,000-word novel in one month several years ago, and didn’t make the count. This year, however, I have a plan. I have a plot. I have characters who have names.
I have a name: It’s the End of the World As We Know It. However, that will change. I love R.E.M., but they won’t love me after they realize I’ve snatched their song title. For the time being, I’ll use it only as a working title.
Yes, I know that serious authors don’t need NaNoWriMo to get in their 1,000+ words a day. I do, because I’m a serious author who wants to get more serious. Accountability is good, so I'm letting my family and friends know what I'm up to. I’m off to a bright start with 1,173 words the morning of day 1, and I will write more this evening. I’ll post an update a week into the challenge on November 8 and let you know how the world is progressing.

Want to try NaNoWriMo yourself? Head to the Web site and start writing: