Saturday, May 30, 2009

Diversity Training/ Invocation

It is quite the vogue to plant in large swaths of a single cultivar. It can be relaxing to the eye. It is less work. However, I do wonder what excitement is given up in the name of making things easy.

This iris is the last to emerge from a season that began early March. Clusters of 'Ballerina' rose adorn the garden's edge with their dainty feminine touch. From the sidewalk, hikers (much more accurate a description than 'walkers' on this incline) usually assume the rose is a hydrangea with the bouquet-like little blossoms.

It would be quite the statement if all my roses and iris were the same. Maintenance would be cut in half. The garden peak would be spectacular. But the everyday excitement of the interaction of the diversity in my garden- that would be lost.

Is it any different in real life? That is what I was thinking of in preparing the invocation given at this month's Diamond Bar Republican Women.

The words, delivered in 2001, by Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonya Sotomayer “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Certainly has freshened public debate about- If justice isn't blind, can it be just?

We take this moment to recognize You, God before country. We thank You to be able to gather together to thank you for the abundant blessings we enjoy. We thank you for those who come forward tonight in leadership and in teaching. Open our minds and hearts that your divine wisdom will lead us only to true teachings as we seek to be part of this world through political action that is not just consistent with our political leanings, but is in keeping with our individual faiths.
We humbly ask your blessings for our officials, elected and appointed. Those we voted for, and those we did not.
Lord, we ask for wisdom in explaining to those who doubt our sincerity. I am a Hispanic. The daughter of a Puerto Rican. I admit, I did puff with pride at the recent Supreme Court nomination. However, I am also the daughter of a man who had to fight for a job when he was unemployed because he happened to be white. Do not let our nation fall into the trap of righting past wrongs with fresh ones .
We believe that we are all made in your image, though we may differ in a thousand characteristics. The color of our skin, the ease with which we laugh, which political party we call home. We accept that some problems should be under the responsibility of the government to solve. We understand that some concerns are best left in the hands of spiritual leaders. Help us explain the difference, and why it is, that no matter the appropriate jurisdiction is, the family must always be respected .
When we leave here tonight, emboldened with fresh knowledge, temper our tongues with kindness, that do not unintentionally slam shut an open mind belonging to someone willing to learn.

As we succeed, remind us gently the importance of humility. The goodness of love. The motivation which springs from hope. And the importance that the change we seek is not for ourselves, but for the people and the nation you have so blessed in this most beautiful of states.
As this is the custom of my faith, I ask this in the name of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

I look forward to the unfolding in the confirmation hearings of Judge Sotomayar. Her confirmation should not be rushed or unduly hindered. The goodness of diversity is something I understand. For her, for our nation, what is deserved, is justice.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Impossible is Just a Word for Motivation

I was told it was impossible to import a rose into the U.S. from Britain.
Impossible just means you have to exercise patience. Study hard. Be ready when you stand at the crossroad of opportunity and preparation.

Three years ago, I chanced upon the possibility to import from a selection of Peter Beales Roses in the UK. There was little more than thirty days to complete the process, or I would not be allowed to help a dozen specimens immigrate here. David Varnam, formerly of Congressman Gary Miller's District Office, coached me through the process.

To get my license meant hustling over hurdles: national to state to local: then reverse back to where I began. To import a rose from the UK, first the grower raises the plantling for a couple years under agricultural inspection. Then, if they pass, there is a brief interlude where, if you are prepared, you may legally import during the bare-root season. You need an import license. The plants will have to be cared for in pots. in solitary segregation away from landscaped areas. You must agree to two years more agricultural inspections stateside. If one of the babies succumbs, the importer agrees to pay for the autopsy.

With less than a handful of days to go, I was approved.

This lovely little rose is one of the British ex-pats which arrived via the port in San Francisco. For two years, my darlings lived in the required isolation back where rabbits, squirrels and coyotes take their playtime. This spring, these new citizens are free to assimilate with the rest of the garden.

The British buds yawned open a bit after the American-born roses- adding continuum to the wave of color which washes my blessed plot of land. It is like living in a fairytale. This is the first time the clematis gave a big blooming kiss to roses like they do in photographs.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day String Tree

"Oregon" Sue Maxwell and I have become friends over the Internet. She is part of a small group who have our first cup of coffee "together", leaving each other chit-chat- starting with the weather, our thoughts and almost always talk about shopping and food.

Sue sent the above photo with her morning missive.

"You have heard of 'string cheese'... have you ever heard of a 'string tree'??? LOL Well, every day or so I cut a bunch of lengths, about 12" of string and hang it in the tree next to the house. The birds come along and take it to make their nests with. "

The photo takes my imagination to the ancient oaks in the hot and humid Southern states. Where nature dangles moss hanging from ancient oak forests. Only Sue lives in the Rogue River region of Oregon, where it was 40 degrees the Memorial Day morning.

I admire Sue's creative spirit. This is a close up of the earrings she crafted for the first Tea Party up in her area. She hung a tea bag from each of the beaded red white and blue earrings she wore to wear with her hand lettered sign, "Taxed Enough Already".

The earrings pretty much sum up the lack of understanding in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement that the April Tax Day tea parties were "funded by high end... we call it Astroturf... not really grass roots of America..."

I have a file full of photos from well-attended tea parties. None of them looked "Astroturf"- a term which is a bit ironic the Speaker used, since the government of our California would like homeowners to replace real grass lawns with manufactured substitute due to the ongoing drought- which has three components- real- political- and court mandated.

Astroturf is lovely to look at. It has its place. But it doesn't smell like grass. It doesn't feel like grass. It doesn't feed the birds seeds like grass. Lack of water doesn't grow crops to feed people.

My wish this Memorial Day, is the politicians simplify their work on our behalf. Instead of throwing insults and demeaning people who love this country as much as they... instead of trying to do for us what we can do for ourselves... please- support our military... cooperate to bring cleaner power and replenish and deliver fresh water supplies. Then show us, by your personal actions, not legislation, how we should live.

My single favorite Obama moment so far isn't a speech. It isn't legislation. It was when a portion of the White House grounds was dedicated to a vegetable garden. I hope this change doesn't end with planting. I hope to read about how the produce is used- about how delicious it tastes.

God Bless America. The people who live here. The brave men and women who serve in the military to protect our right to free speech and our privilege to garden.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The hands of the master are still.

Master craftsman Sam Maloof passed away at his home this past Thursday evening.

Sam remained active and engaged with life for all the ninety three years the Lord allowed him to be on this earth. In an age where mass production threatened personalization in furniture, Sam used his God-given talent, enthusiasm and perseverance to prove that it is possible to make a good living at the intersection of art and commerce.

Thank you, Sam, for making the world a little more beautiful while you were here. Your legacy is more than the furniture you made, fine as it is. It is also all the people you inspired to aspire to excellence.

Photos by Gene Sasse. Used with permission.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Letter Appreciation- I

Time to exercise the gratitude muscle in the region of the letter “I”

Ice- The ultimate luxury in warm climates. On a hot day, my puppies love to chase miniature icebergs afloat in their water bowls.

Iris- Even when not in bloom, these are green exclamation points in the garden.

Ireland- Land of my father’s- father’s father.

Intuition- Which whispers the spark of genius awake

Imagination- The greatest talent which cannot be taught- but must be harnessed to be useful. The collaborative imagination of this nation is the tide on which this nation rose.

Intimate- My favorite type of garden does not tell me it knows the rules of propriety. It shows me it knows the gardener, and that they are in love with each other. Deeply.

Intelligent discourse- To lecture is easy. To engage thoughtful conversation that will lead to good- that is talent and something to be striven for.

Immigration- That generation after generation, people leave their homelands to come to this nation, is proof of this being a land overflowing with goodness.

Jack Ingram. This man is emblematic of why I am drawn to country music. His music wraps up stories about life in poetry and gives it as a gift to the fans. Country musicians uplift other artists. In August of 2006, there weren’t more than a couple hundred people at the Whiskey in LA when 16 year old Taylor Swift thanked Jack Ingram for letting her open for him when she was even younger. Next time I saw them, Jack played before Taylor. Her upcoming headliner show at The Staples Center is sold out.

Your turn. If you live near the latest epicenter- it will take your mind off the shaking. Stay safe and be well.

The photo of Jack and Taylor from the Whiskey are from my personal collection.

The other images are by Gene Sasse. Used with permission. The hotlink to his site must be down from earthquake, but please drop any post where his work is featured. You should be able to link from there.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Birthday Tree

By George C. Hill

It only blooms on my Birthday !It is a 13 foot Pineapple-Guava Tree. Actually, it is a bush trained to be a tree. I have always enjoyed what God can do. As a child, I always spent the entire summer at a YMCA Summer Camp in the deep forests. As I am a Heart Patient, I have realized several times, my being a mere mortal.

I have my tree right outside my kitchen window. It only comes to bloom on my birthday...May 6th. It starts to fill up with bloom pods about a week before... and then...on May 6th... It comes to a full bloom all over the tree. It lasts for a week... then it is gone for a year. I have accepted the timing and believe that the good Lord is letting me know that if I behave myself, He will celebrate another year, next year, on my birthday.Yes ! There is a God !

God Bless, "Gator"

Friend and reader, who gave permission to reprint this lovely note.

Photo by Gene Sasse. Used with permission.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Perfect Day

The first time I saw 'red' Valerian- it was blooming in wild drifts near the freeway south of Santa Barbara. We stopped at a nursery. The car was already full. But Gerry piled a couple gallon plants on my lap for the ride home. It spreads through the sunnier parts of the garden on a whim. But nothing that looks this happy should be labeled invasive.

Looking south through the same flower bed. the alstromeria mimics azalea blooms. The neighbor's tree blocks the harshest sunlight and leaves the impression that we are not in the suburbs, but in the wooded countryside.

"Cheerful" is the effect of mixed floral borders. There is no no shortage of bees, butterflies or hummingbirds when the garden looks like this.

This is our "Little Ken". He's 6'-3". It was his idea to get the family together here for Mother's Day. He volunteered to cook for the family.
He brought his chihuahuas and the makings of mimosas for his momma.

With his two dogs, and ours, we had a herd of chihuahuas to entertain us. This is as close to getting all the compadres in one shot as I could. That little white one- 'Quila' is a real Beverly Hills chihuahua with a better wardrobe than mine.

After church, our older son, Trevor, escorted my husband's mother from Corona to be with us.

Without my husband and the boys, there would be no Mother's Day for me. So they each got a present. Barbecue aprons which read, "Does Someone Smell Something Burning?"

This is my dear mother-in-law, Melva. She is gluten-intolerant, so the menu is built around her needs. Not that anyone suffered at all.

Stilton Cheese with Apricots from Trader Joe's was devoured along with with Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins.

Kenny boiled the artichokes until just before done, then marinated them for an hour before
finishing on the grill.

He precooked the russet potatoes in the microwave and let them cool while he chopped sweet onion, carrots and red bell pepper for the hash browns. He cooked the diced vegetables in garlic- salted olive oil until they were just beginning to caramelize. Then the grated potatoes were turned in the giant frying pan until a crust developed. Chopped parsley from the garden was sprinkled over, and the heat turned off.

Gerry was in charge of the barbecuing the meaty Korean ribs from the butcher at our local Market World . Most of the ribs were marinated in the traditional Korean sauce, but for my mother-in-law, a few strips of the cross-cut ribs were simply tenderized in garlic salt, pepper and Merlot.

I am modeling my Mother's Day Outfit- a dress I bought for $19.99 at Kmart, topped with the most adorable "American Cooking "Apron.

We gave our Thanks to God on the Patio for the wonderful food and time together. We asked He be with those who were in our hearts but could not be with us that day.

At the end of the meal, Melva was presented with one of the azaleas that decorated the patio. The other was hand delivered to my mother.
There was still one thing to do. Drive to Sears to replace the table saw which is no longer safe. A woman came by and asked, "Isn't your husband taking you to the jewelry department? " I told her that if he was buying me jewelry (which I rarely wear) I should probably wonder what he had done that I would need the "jewelry mea culpa". No- he makes me many fine things with his woodworking equipment. The saw is two gifts in one, really. One- for his birthday he is getting exactly what he wants. Two- the presents he makes mean more to me than anything which is born at a mall.
And that is the story of my perfect Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Letter Appreciation- H

ll muscles need exercise. Including the gratitude muscle. As the hip bone is attached to the leg bone, gratitude is the sinew connecting happiness and mental health. "Plan A" is to once a week trot out a list of things to inspire you to think of what you appreciate. This week we workout to the letter “H”.

Hugs and handshakes

Honesty: the mother of clarity and father of reliability.


Men like my nephew Juadon Tabor, who has found his calling with the US Navy. He didn’t complain about basic training. He said that compared to football- it was easy. God be with you, Juadon.

My sons and my niece, Anka (shown) who worked to earn their privilege of a college education.

Also, my unnamed unwed friends who went through with the pregnancy. Especially the one who saw to it the child went to a good home.

The French writer, Victor Hugo. In his time, he used his pen to fight for human rights. He railed against nature being reduced only to scientific rationalization. I wonder what the man who wrote

Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.

would think of our modern habit of robbing nature of her sublime aesthetics and awe: reducing our relationship with her to graphs and incessant insistence that she should be controlled more than enjoyed?

Every house a temple, every heart an altar, every human being a
--- Moritz Lazarus

I have slept in fine hotels in some of the world’s great cities. But the hearth of home is where my heart best finds heaven. Except, perhaps, the garden, where hummingbirds sip wild sweet honeysuckle and vanilla-scented heliotrope.

What are some of your favorite things which start with the letter “H”? Please share.

Portrait of "Cosette" by Emile Bayard, from the original edition of Les Misérables (1862)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Cinco De Mayo

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

What better celebration than to share with you this row of Cinco de Mayo roses swirling their petals near the Cal Poly Farm Store in Pomona. Red roses can be hard to work with in the landscape, but not Cinco, because both warm and cool color tones blend within the flower folds, like chiffon over silk.
May everyone on the road with you tonight drive safely.
Thank you to Gene Sasse for permission to post this photograph .
How he captures colors so accurately- WOW.