Friday, January 27, 2012

Sharing Blessings ~ Receiving and Giving Both Have Pleasure

Country formal- vintage lace and stylized pottery design exemplify my idea of heaven in home

In styling speech-makers, presentation is partner to content. The most effective communicators elevate words of denotation to phrases of connotation. The bond with the audience comes when a trinity of thought, intellect and soul is formed.  

Among family and friends, the setting is partner to the emotional communion. It is what makes a house the home where the heads.

When Sandra Price gave me the pottery plate, it was piled high with strawberries dressed in reverse stripes of white, dark and that mocha shade of milk chocolate. "Share Your Blessings with Family and Friends" could be her and Chuck's family motto.

While Sandra is younger than I, she has taught me much about the art of gracious giving. One- smile. Two- make the gift about the receiver. Three. The gift doesn't have to be new. Over years of friendship she has brought down things she instinctively knew I would like.  

This lacquered jewelry box is as close to a family heirloom as my mother left. It was a gift from her brother, a memento of his service in Korea. It is on its way to the granddaughter who remembers it as a treasure chest.

Two generations of little girls marveled at its contents. In its heyday it had been filled with cabochon-encrusted jewelry my father hand polished and set in his garage workshop.  From within, little fingers let strands of department store beads run through their fingers like water falling from an engorged stream. 

Wonderful for building memories~ not so good for the jewelry box.  Broken hinges and filled with decades of dust, I had my doubts when I handed it to my husband to see if any glory might be restored.

 The air compressor had its worked cut out for it, blowing embedded dust from the original velvet interior.

Acrylic tubs were blended until the brownish black background was matched. It was then thinned with extender to spread on barren spots and corners with the smoothness of a spray.

A gold pen gilt the outline outlining the inlaid abalone mosaic lid border.

Tiny brushed dipped in acrylic enhanced what was left of the oriental landscape renderings.

Broken hinges were repaired, minuscule fasteners refashioned to fit where the originals had long ago gone missing in action.

Two layers of wax free shellac brought up the sheen and sealed the artwork.

A polishing with Renaissance Wax.

My mother has been gone for over a year, but through polishing and passing this memento, a portion of her lives on.

Linking up to Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

This Valentine's Season, the partnership of vintage lace with the platter remind all who view it, above all else, this is a family home. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crisis Management Requires Peace of Mind

Keynote Speaker: Sidney Madwed
"Every goal, every action, every thought, every feeling one experiences, whether it be consciously or unconsciously known, is an attempt to increase one's level of peace of mind."

~Sidney Madwed/ Keynote Speaker and Poet of the Business World

Peace of mind does not happen at once. Like a garden, it is built by a series of actions with serenity the goal. Some strategies offer immediate gratification. Others take years to appreciate.


Shea Zukowski's Lavender, Parsley, Peppermint and Sage has been a lovely little guide to making our home more serene through elevating household chores by turning the laundry into an aromatherapy session. A wet washcloth sprinkled with lemon and bergamot essential oils in a dryer load made folding towels a delight. Tangerine essential oil conjured a perky attitude in  laundress (me) as an extra layer of citrusy aromas emanated from the steam iron.   
Bouganvilllea 'Rosenka' at maturity
 A garden with a view works both ways. If you can see out- every neighbor and passerby can see in. You don't live on a hillside long before the value of  privacy sky rockets. So begins the balancing act between borrowed views and private ownership of  precious solitude.

Everything important I've learned in the garden. Every action begets a lesson. Or two. 

Life is not constrained to written words. The plant tag promised that the bougainvillea 'Rosenka" could be kept to 1' high and 3'wide. 

Across the yard at dusk, you can see her crepe bracts tinged in the color of the coming sunset reaching out wider and taller than the garden bench. Moments should be enjoyed for what they offer. The open silhouette of a tree in winter is as wondrous as summer shade. Nature does not need a thermostat to provide what is most appropriate.  

With a wildland finger  canyon beyond, there is a constant supply of bunnies nibbling on the green lawn. The bougainvillea offers shelter when our puppies take chase. Not that our chihuahua- mixes would have a clue of what to do if they ever caught one. With artful zig-zags and break- we have learned to have faith- this is an unlikely a game of hide- and- seek, where neither bunnies nor puppies would know "what to do" if they actually touched. 

Their exuberant pings across the lawn catapults  joy over low moments.

If there is anything that should be banked for hard times, it is heartfelt joy. Then when your crisis comes, you will find the courage to use hardship to build something beautiful from the broken parts of life. 

Anything  a reserve of joy cannot fix, take it to the Lord. The odds are far more in favor of Him as helper than the government programs that let so many people down.  

With certain exceptions. Government is excellent with straightforward services where private industry does not police itself. Register up to 3 phone numbers to the Do Not Call Registry here.  It won't stop the political or charitable calls or any of the bank wanting to provide one service. But in our home, less ring-alings means I end the day less ding-aling.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thinking Green- Showing Love in the Every Day

In order to love simply, it is necessary to know how to show love.

-- Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Love is shown in how the details of living daily are expressed.

One repair leads to another. Even the most careful craftsmen cannot work without creating some collateral damage. It is now two months of home and garden convalescing from the fumigation. It has been an opportunity to re-think elements of the garden setting.

Repaired archway shows off nicely against newly painted retaining wall.

The gateway arch protecting the pathway to the back door began its life as a standard big-box cedar archway. Not quite as wide as the side yard opening, my hunky handyman husband amended its frame with shelves to broaden its footprint to the full width of the garden opening. Alas, the archway had fallen victim to the heavy fumigation tent.

I suppose we could have avoided the structural split by having moved it before Western Exterminators arrived. However, as untreated wood pieces might harbor critters intent on literally eating house and home out from over us, it stayed. At its side, the firewood was restacked against the house (with the help of the fumigator crew, thank God). We left our home in good hands, with a prayer that any collateral damage in the war against  termites could be made right. 

It is now 2 months later. Our neighbors are saints, watching us munching at repair and renovation, moving around the permimeter, slower than snacking snails. While our neighbors waited for the injured arch splayed on the driveway to be repaired, repainted and stood back up, it was our opportunity  to refresh the naked retaining wall.

Some things cannot be planned to perfection. Experience has its place. Blue seemed alright in theory. It is my favorite color. Our house is blue. There are blue tones in the driveway paving stones. In reality, it never loved the landscape or architecture. Real life is like that.
Resurfacing the wall was my first choice. The budget demanded - stick with paint. Okay. But no more blue. The color would need to relate organically with the blues and grays of home and roof, but blue failed in application. Move on.  

The inspiration came from my favorite gardens.  Their common denominator are broad backdrops of green. For your enjoyment,  pictures taken of the Portland Rose Garden have been dropped in this post.

The formerly blue retaining spent a week striped in 5 shades of green until 'Weatherfield Moss' got the unanimous nod. Two gallons coated the impression of a hedge across the wall.    

Plectranthus 'Blue Yonder'
Santa Barbara based landscape designer and garden coach Joan Bolton sent the name of the plant I had tooooo lazy to look up in last post.  My Pectranthus is a living souvenir of my trek to the Botanical Garden at UC Berkeley . Southwest Airlines doesn't charge for luggage- she came home in an extra suitcase. Yes, we gardeners are a curious lot.

What I love about her is she looks so dainty. So well decked out in velvety leaves trimmed in white with floral spires impossibly saturated in purest blue.  So delicate appearing, her looks are at odds with her iron constitution. Here, she thrives  in a pot in full sun. She cools the roots of her companion roses, protecting it both from the vagaries of weather and also the irregular care of the gardener.

As soon as the fumigation was scheduled, our roofer was called to inspect afterwards

Last night an inch of rain fell. Good thing the roofer came by to inspect last week.

Catching a cement roofing tile takes skill

By law, wood roofs are no longer allowed in Southern California. Fire hazard. When it came time to replace the overhead  kindling, we chose cement tile grooved to mimic the grain of wood, in the deepest gray we could find.  For added shadow line, tiles are offset.

No material is without its drawbacks. A cement roof requires maintenance. Because it cracks. Particularly if it is walked on. Like after exterior painting, washing skylights or exterior painting. Even a good strong wind can take tiles off.

If, like us, you choose it for its many attributes, then you need to find a good roofer. Someone honest, craftsman-like and reasonably priced. Someone like Matt Walker. 

The featured rose garden is the International Rose Test Garden -
 Washington Park, 400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, Oregon.
(Images taken at the 2008 GWA (Garden Writer's) Symposium)

Matt Walker can be reached at 714.525.2284

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Garden Blooming Blog Day - GBBD - January 2012

Iris, Valerian and budding roses are curbside visual joy
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
~Philippians 4:8 NIV

Sea Lavendar Statice (limonium perezii) is ubiquitous to even non-gardener gardens
 "Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."
~ Matthew 5:48 The Message Bible

With a warm winter, the earliest pruned roses are beginning to leaf and bud out
  What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.
~Job 22:28 NIV

Not remembering the bright blue flower head at this critican moment- I pledge to tag specimens of note):-
"The Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him."
~Psalm 32:10

Red Valerian dances about the garden, and beyond

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
~ Proverbs 4:23 Today's NIV"

A garden can never have too many daylilies.
 "Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."
~ Matthew 5:48 The Message Bible

Orchids tell if you are an attentive "mother". Treat them well and they will bloom. Ignore- they sulk.
Mine promise flowers for Valentines Day.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."
~Proverbs 16:3 NIV

The tropical Billbergia is a refuge child long-ago escaping my mother's tropical garden- I know not when. The Sunset Western Garden Guide recommends regular watering, but mine only seems to need love.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:4-7   NIV

Thank you to Good Thoughts Blog for making the research for Bible Quotes so EASY!

Linking up to Carol May Dreams Garden Blooming Blog Day.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

When the Heart says "Go" but the Brain says "No"

Up to Half Off Jetpack Flight in Newport Beach

Do you ever get a good laugh out of what lands in your E-mail in-box? For instance, do you chuckle at offers of pole dancing lessons? In my case, sliding down a pole would be easy- but getting me back up? Someone might have a camera phone- my dignity could be lost forever over the Internet. 

But this one tops them all. Groupon sends me a deal of the day. It is  JetLev's offer to strap water-powered jet pack and put a GoPro helmet-mounted video helmet over my head: that part of the body God designated to hold my brain. 

My heart wants to do it. I am tempted. But in the battle between heart and brain, life has taught it is better to let the brain win. I am, after all,  a woman who broke her arm pruning roses. I should NOT do this, if for no other reason than respect for The Lord who made her.

Personal decisions such as this do not mean I begrudge someone else making a different decision. (Although, I hope our sons miss reading this and go hit the "buy" button.)  If  they did, though, I should want to see the video and imagine the great rush of life they felt. Their appreciation for life lived full on is something that makes me both cringe and  love them as much as any mother loved any child.

Any day loved ones are full of joy, I believe should be commemorated. It is my observation that when we have lost family or friends,  while grief is fresh, images of the person may conjur up dark emotions. However, with time,  the same visions - through the visual imprint - their spirit sparks a light in the heart- where they live-on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Full capacity- Footing In Times of Turmoil

File:MKGandhi.jpg“Do not undertake anything beyond your capacity and at the same time do not harbor the wish to do less than you can. One who takes up tasks beyond his powers is proud and attached. One who does less than he can is a thief."
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

When it is half-way to Valentines Day and Christmas Decorations still fill the living room, I suspect I have taken on too much. Time to adjust.

Daffodils in San Bernardino Mountains by Gene Sasse

Life is a precarious balancing act, the ground beneath our feet changing from wide walkway to narrow wire without our consent. Sometimes the changes come slowly, giving us time to prepare. Other times, we trip over the sudden change in terrain.

Craggy Summit by Gene Sasse
 Especially in time of turmoil, how we adjust to what to unfairness is a good indicator of mental health. It is imperative that when we least want to, we find the balance towards forward motion. Pacing our plans and actions.

I'm a double- D girl. Not talking about bra size. I have two demons that stalk me: depression and diabetes. Keeping them outside my life is a priority. I am fortunate: exercise works for me.

Working out at Fitness Advantage in Diamond Bar keeps me in what a friend calls "Mighty Mouse" shape.  It's not your typical big box gym teeming with people focused on finding dates or cutting deals. It's more akin in personality to the bar in the defunct TV series Cheers- "Where everyone knows your name." As important- they know their equipment and will work with you to make your journey to better health quick and lasting.  

Syliva Galleli - who co-owns Fitness Advantage with her husband Kelvin Pruenster centers the business on a holistic approach. Getting healthy starts from the inside out- then layering it with the fun stuff- where the improvement comes from the outside in.

The climbing photo was taken when I was in training in Pasadena. A rock climbing adventure anticipated that summer. When the instructor at the practice wall  wall broke her ankle- while standing at the bottom- I decided that God may have wanted me to be in shape to go mountain climbing- that doesn't mean he wanted me to actually do it):-

The last several months have been like living in the center of a perpetual hurricane. Watching the turmoil taking loved ones hostage. I confess: at times I am fearful  of how long I am protected.  Moving my own health to the top priority spot kept my spirits off the floor.

In my youth I would have been angry that "life" was intering with my projects and plans. In particular, my husband is a good man- a man who worked long hours with uncompromised integrity. His family is athletic. He is not deserving anything but GREAT health- and the continued runs to the hospital take a toll on everyone who loves and admires him. It hasn't been the smoothest recovery- but recovery it is. 

We are fortunate that in the very few times the service of a medical provider did not meet our expectations - we have the opportunity to go elsewhere.  The Republican candidates who took Mitt Romney's words out of context this week on this subject - I am done with you. There is a reason people hate politics- and on behalf of everyone who has either wanted to fire a doctor but had not options- go away. Come back if you grow up.

 In youth, in times of great anger and hurt I was known to lash out with my tongue. Or my pen. Or otherwise "bad behavior".  A life of just enough mistakes has taught when vengence is paramount, wrath makes a victim of truth.  "Slow down" was probably the best advice ever given me. Even if it took hearing it more than once for it to sink in.

 As written in the the first Epistle to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 13:11 

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Thrasher by Gene Sasse

And so every morning, I open with a prayer. Thanking God for just one more day in this personal paradise. Three decades of wife to Gerry and mother to Trevor and Kenny.  All else is secondary to the joy these three men have honored me with.

Opening quote courtesy of the Kingdom of Organization- Franklin-Covey  
Fitness Advantage
1249 S Diamond Bar Blvd
Diamond Bar, CA 91765
Phone: (909) 396-0309

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Decide to Be Happy

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.
 ~James Openheim

A bed of "Ida Red' Iris growing at Argyle Acers, TX There is one blooming in my side yard- it is the 2012 inspiration for that section of the garden. When Gerry goes back to work I am planning a planting week to celebrate God's continued blessing.

The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good.
- Bertrand Russell

Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual

Happiness is a Serious Problem is the Dennis Prager book that changed my life. If the local Goodwill Store has sold out- Amazon carries.

 There are times when happiness will not be at hand. Life has those moments when she is so unfair, so cruel. Those are the times we need to be in prayer. At all other times, happiness is  a decision from which blessings flow.

My mother. Ethel Maria Sepulveda Lent as Navy WAVE occupational therapist
"What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful."
- Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Yesterday, Epiphany, 3 Kings Day, was the holiday celebration of her youth in Puerto Rico. In counting my blessings- having her as my mother is always on the list. Her life was not easy. She rarely complained. She never ranted. She just got on with it. With a smile. Eager to be back in her garden when her "work" was done.
It was my mother's decision that as long as she had a garden, she could be happy. When that was no longer possible, she passed the trowel, so to speak. It became my daughterly duty to coax from mother nature as many bouquets as the season allowed. Her happiness, despite circumstances that lesser women would have sunk in despair over, was a gift that continues past her time on earth.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hanging Out With Hummingbirds and More

  A Hummingbird hanging out on top of the weeping rose. Why I wanted a better camera. To better share with you the wonder of where we live. 

This is the valley the hummer views as its territory. See why we hillside dwellers love living with a view. For all the extra work: there is simply nothing grander than borrowed views clothed in all the glorious greens. Green is not a color. It is a universe of its own. 

One that isn't just the thousand shades of leaves and blades. There are the seasonal spikes of leaves blazing yellow, orange or red just before they flutter from the limbs to ground; to dry and nourish the tree from which they fell.  

The scenery never steals the beauty of single flowers. The orchid buds are just beginning to poke their necks from the mop of leaves. But roses here are never out of bloom.  Not completely.

Modern. English. I love them all.  How abundantly they flourish this coming spring is largely determined by how intensely they are prepared over the next 3 weeks. With warmer than usual weather, I am in a race with breaking buds.

January sunsets are the best.  Their early entrance in the day is God's favor to help slow us down. Keep gardener's from premature bent over posture):-

Time to turn  in. My old point and shoot camera has its uses. But it could NEVER have taken the man in the moon's portrait. Not with the detail that suggests he's a bit sleepy. Ready for a nap.

 As much as we love our chihuahuas, sometimes it is nice to not spend our evenings as their personal heating pads. Which is how Tahoe came to have her own personal  heating blanket.  We simply let her have mine.  Night-night. 

Just as soon as I have linked over to see what is happening on Show and Tell at My Romantic Home.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome, 2012! And the Resolution is...

The best resolutions are the simplest. One of the most life changing was the year I decided  - When someone offers help- say "yes".

Last year's resolution was to pay off debt. While the process of living to priorities and letting all else go  caused me at times to be whiny, on this other side of  that mountain, life is much freer. When given a choice, always choose the road with the most personal freedom. That is the state where you can best effect your utmost.

The last look back at 2011 is that in crisis, the hymn associated with the ill-fated ocean liner the Titanic- Nearer My God To Thee, took on a deeper meaning. Home from one more, prayerfully last emergency run to the hospital, there is a renewed aura over our house and garden. 

It is gratitude.

With it being a BIG football day, it brings to mind  Tim Tebow. Tim- You keep showing your gratitude when good things go your way.  Eventually, some of the critics will "get it" and be better for having understood the power of gratitude.

In the scheme of things, it doesn't matter that  the software for the new camera doesn't work on my computer. That can be fixed. It doesn't matter that the living room is still stacked with decorations needing to be packed away. It doesn't matter that the Christmas lights only got half-taken down. Or that the garden wall I began to paint entered the New Year not much past looking like paint samples.

What matters is the man who put my phone number on a paint chip as he left a New Year's Eve Party in Belmont Shore 37 years ago is home, getting healthy. 

2011 ended on the best of notes. A young man relieved me of my seasonal night-time raid of sidewalks and gutters for leaves blown from trees. He delivered the gardener's gold in Hefty bags right to the backyard rim.

His parents came by to ask us for dinner. The meal was fabulous -we filled in with dessert and Spanish wine 

However, it was the magical healing power of laughter that was best. It was GOOD to feel its restorative quality. Home before the time ran from 2011 to 2012, the torch of one year to the next was filled with music.

 After months of being afraid to look  into the crystal ball of the next year, I am confident that all will be better than alright.

All of which leads to the 2012 New Year Resolutions

There will be more laughter.
There will be more music. 

Images by Gene Sasse