"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

A Nature-Made Mental Health Day

 

IMAG0761My friend and I had gone to Springfield to spend the day with our college-aged kids, but no definitive plan had been decided. Icy drizzle limited us to an indoor activity for our visit, so we crossed off an outing to the World’s Largest Fork. (Yes, this is an actual attraction in Springfield, and yes, I would love to see what it looks like).  After weighing our options for the Saturday afternoon before us, we decided to visit the Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium at Bass Pro Shops.

The Wildlife Aquarium at the museum has a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium that features 35,000 live fish, but there are also quite a few reptiles and birds sprinkled into the galleries.  Coming out of the swamp exhibit, I saw the above quote displayed on a sign.  The words are attributed to John Muir, known as a Scottish naturalist and preservationist who lived during the late 1800s.  As I wandered with our group throughout the exhibits, this quote stood out to me.  I loved the visual of how all of nature is knitted together, as if connecting everything with a single thread.  Just a little tug, a little awareness, and all things come together into focus.

Who knew puffer fish had such cute little teeth to smile with?

I’d had my phone out the entire visit, and even though it was being used as a camera, it made me realize how even the simple joy of witnessing nature was connected to some kind of technology for me.   There are times I am trying so hard to document an experience that I forget to actually live the experience as it’s happening.  I continued to take pictures for the rest of the galleries, but I made it a point to try to make the photography secondary to what I was seeing and who I was with at the moment.

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IMAG0731It was nice to not have a packed schedule for the day, just a late breakfast with the kids, an aquarium visit done at a leisurely pace and plenty of good conversation.  The weather wasn’t getting any better, and we didn’t want to get back home too late, so after a coffee stop we called it a day, gave the kids hugs and headed home.

I like to believe that the “single tug at nature” process had begun.  I suppose that once Mother Nature decided she had my attention with her beauty, she decided it was time to show me her power.  That Saturday, Nature was the one that had the power to make me quit rushing through things and stop to take a breath.

The freezing drizzle continued for the first part of the trip, but the roads were drivable.  As we continued down I-44, the windshield wipers were having a hard time keeping up with the precipitation.  Even with the temperature and the defroster blower on high, layers of ice began creeping across the windshield.  Then there were a couple of patches on the road that were sketchy.  Tractor trailer trucks either blew past us at normal highway speed or crept slowly along on the hills as the daylight started to fade.

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Any Missourian will tell you that snow is something a driver can reason with; ice is not. With this in mind,  we decided to listen to nature and stopped to spend the night at hotel rather than risk the ice.

Sometimes the To Do List needs to balance with the To Live list.  Instead of a white-knuckled drive home, I was able to spend time with a friend, enjoying a meal and relaxing with a bottle of wine, talking and laughing over YouTube videos and even getting a little work done, too.  (Yes, technology manages to be a part of my nature-scape.)

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This was one of my favorite exhibits of the day.  The jellyfish looked like floating creatures in a lava lamp.  So mesmerizing to watch.

I’m not sure John Muir envisioned the world as a place where getting a glimpse at nature takes as much effort as it does, but surely he saw how appreciating it needed to be intentional.   I doubt he would have guessed how much competition would be out there in our modern-day lives.  On most days I must admit I am guilty of being more dependent on my phone to get me through my day than a spectacular view of mysterious-looking jellyfish.

Thank goodness there are some fantastic nature screen savers out there.

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The Story of Merle, From Barn Kitty to King of the Castle In His Own Mind

Merlin sleeping

Late last summer, Tyler asked “Can I get a barn kitty from Katie’s Grandma’s house?”  Being the practical Mom that I am, I answered a resounding, no, absolutely not.  In a few short weeks, the girls would be back in school, Tyler away at college, and all animal maintenance on my shoulders.  Where would it sleep? We already had a cat, albeit one that rarely made an appearance amongst humans, but a cat and two dogs were enough.  Why would I want another critter to care for?

“Well, look at him,” he said, flashing me a picture of Katie with a tiny runt of a kitty sitting on her shoulder like a bedraggled parrot.  It was not a handsome kitty.

Merlin the parrot

I rolled my eyes.  “The answer is still no,” I said, shaking my head at the homely kitten, although I had to admit it was a charming pose.  My mind moved onto other things.

That night as I tried to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about that kitten.  In that single pic, the posture of that scruffy little face stuck in my head.  My logical self told me I was crazy for even entertaining the notion of having another animal living here, even if it was just until Tyler lived somewhere that would allow him to have a cat.  Probably just a year, I reasoned.  And what if we saved the little runt of a kitten from the barn kitty life, and gave him a loving home…

Have I mentioned I watched a lot of animal cartoons growing up?

The next morning, I texted Tyler from work.  “When do you need an answer about the cat?” And so it began.  I’ll spare you the details of the text conversations between the kids, my husband and me.  To sum, there was a tiny bit of resistance, lots of debate and all kinds of mushy words of how a deprived little kitty needed a home.  I should mention there was not a shred of logic.

In the hours that followed, you would have thought we’d been expecting a newborn baby.  We batted around names, with Tyler having the final say, and decided he’d be called Merlin.  We went to the pet store for new toys and treats, more kitty litter and a separate litter box, kitten food and the much-needed kitty door for Tyler’s room.  As they rang up the purchases, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d somehow been bamboozled.  I have always been too big a softie when it comes to furry creatures with big, round eyes. Sucker.

We spent the evening waiting for Katie to come back from her Grandma’s with the new kitty.  As we have other pets, and he had been mostly living outside and had yet to be examined by a vet, we met him outside in the garage.  He was so skinny and tiny!

 

Despite his puny appearance, he had an obvious curiosity about everything going on, and was so trusting and friendly.

Until I put him in the sink.

He had some jumpy little fleas on him, and we had an aged bottle of flea shampoo upstairs, so I figured why not?  This pitiable little kitten went from curious to a terrified lump of fur in a matter of seconds.  I thought I’d killed the poor thing from the shock as he went completely limp.  There was no fight in him, but as soon as we got him in the towel he had completely forgiven me. Little did I know at the time that dog flea shampoo can be toxic to cats, or I really would have thought I had killed him.

Not surprisingly, he ended up spending the night in Tyler’s room, not the garage.  After a trip to the vet first thing in the morning, it was determined he had quite a few health issues besides just fleas.  We ended up with anti-worm medication, eye drops for his runny eye and, of course, they did a flea treatment.  He wasn’t healthy enough for his first round of vaccinations.

Velma, our other cat, did not have much use for him, which ended up being a good thing since he had his health woes to overcome before we wanted them to meet.  Chester and Grendel were their nosy selves, but took to him better than I thought they would.  Of course, he was usually in someone’s arms or lap, so he was gradually introduced.  Early on, he showed those two he wasn’t afraid of them by leaping down right in the middle of the two of them while they had been looking at him like a pack of hungry hyenas.  It may have been in that very moment that he decided he was one of the boys, an honorary dog in his own right.

Tyler was like a new father to his pet.  It was only a week before he had to head back to school, and he spent as much time with him as he could.  My favorite memory from that week, though, was when Tyler told me, “All he wants to do is play in the middle of the night, and all I want to do is sleep”.  He also had a hard time leaving him, even if it was to go out with friends.  I told him welcome to Parenthood Lite.

Summer wound down, the kids all went back to school, and I found myself with a kitten who thought he was a dog, following me from room to room, bringing me his toys and looking for me in the morning for his daily spoon of soft food.  In fact, the daily spoon is the one thing he and Velma can agree on, and I often wake in the morning to find two cats roaming around looking for me to get up and get them their treat.

It’s been about six months since he’s wormed (literally) his way into our household, and I can’t believe it had ever been a question of “Mom, can we keep him?”  While he still battles with his runny eye, an issue I imagine he’ll deal with most of the time, he’s grown to be a spunky, curious, and affectionate cat.

Always curious, but after hearing the old saying about curiosity killing cats, Merlin stays back a safe distance.

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Despite my best efforts to not get too attached to him (he’s Tyler’s cat after all) I find myself completely in love with this mangy little guy.  He still hasn’t mastered the ability to actually meow, instead making a sort of chirping sound.  (Hmm, a cat that thinks he’s a dog and sounds like a bird.  Perhaps he really does have an identity crisis.) He greets me when I get home from work, is always looking for a snuggle, and constantly finds ways to endear himself to me. I hate to admit it, but most of the recent photos on my phone are of Merlin and I can’t go to the store without bringing him some sort of toy or treat home.  At some point I became Crazy Cat Lady and the notion is unsettling.  I thought that only happened to empty nesters.

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He still has parrot tendencies. And helps me on the computer.

Merlin on keyboard

Here he gives me some writing advice while warming himself on the keyboard

If you were to ask him (and he could talk—I’m not that crazy yet), I believe he would tell you he’s King of the Castle here at the house.  There may be a dog or cat around here that would disagree with his assessment, but I doubt they’d do anything about it.

Velma and Merlin

The kitties eventually called a truce. I wouldn’t say they’re the best of buddies, but a lap is still a lap, so they manage to get along enough to grab a nap on the blanket.

Regardless of who rules the roost, none can argue he’s injected some excitement into the quiet household, whether he’s playing the part of cat, dog or parrot.  Not too shabby for the runt-of-the-litter barn kitty he started off life as in the beginning.

More Thoughts on Bamboo Part 2 – Forget the Panda

potted bamboo

I never thought there would be a need for Part 2 of Bamboo Quest, but here I am, almost two years later and the battle between nature and woman continues.  I wrote a post that spring about my ongoing struggle with the bamboo I had planted based on the romantic notion of “The Fern and the Bamboo”.  I learned a tough lesson—don’t plan landscaping based on cheesy, albeit meaningful, poetic stories about nature.  You can read it here.

In the year between the first attempt at getting rid of it and now, it grew back.  The stalks themselves were not thicker—in fact, they got almost skinny-asparagus-looking, but there were many more of them.  I had spent hours digging up the stalks, presumably by the roots, to eradicate the bamboo from the side of the house.  Ironically, I believe that it actually helped aerate the remaining roots, because it spread up to the side of the house even faster, rounding the corner into the front landscaping.

Last summer, busy with Tyler’s graduation, not to mention completely frustrated with my inability to wipe it out, I just lived with it, trying in vain just to keep it contained to where it already had grown.  The best (or maybe the worst) thing about that side of the house is that I don’t really ever see it like I do the side next to the garage.  It’s times when I am cutting the grass or getting out the hose that I am reminded that I need to do something about that crazy bamboo.

Lilac

Must conquer bamboo before it strangles my Lilac Bush!

Late this winter, I started to plan what I was going to do about it.  I watched You Tube videos of people telling how they managed to get rid of that invasive plant.  One video I watched with a method I wanted to try was smothering it. The guy doing the video told of how he had left a piece of plywood on the ground and when he moved it a couple of days later, the bamboo had died.  I envisioned laying down thick, black plastic and putting gravel on top.  It seemed like a very do-able method, even if it involved a lot of gravel shoveling.  My fear was that this bionic plant would manage to pop right through the plastic anyway, and it’d be even harder to get to with the plastic barrier.  Another method, told to me by a friend who is actually a plant ecologist, was to cut it back close to the ground and pour full strength, concentrated weed killer in the stalks.  That seemed like an even better plan, and although I don’t like that it will be some time before I can plant anything there again if I sterilize the soil, I liked the idea of dousing it with the weed killer and spending the summer re-spraying as needed until it doesn’t come back.

So yesterday, I tackled the bamboo full force once again.  I prepared by going to Home Depot and buying the largest container of Round Up concentrate they sold as well as a long machete.  The machete purchase worried Darrell a bit.  Mostly because I think he thought I’d lose a digit or two—he knows me pretty well.  I had this idea of going all “Ghengis Kahn” on the bamboo, like a mighty warrior defending the homestead.  Instead, it was a pathetic version of sword-wielding with me slamming the machete into the toughened stalks and nicking them a tiny bit.  I could almost hear the bamboo laughing.  I changed my game plan after about a half hour of getting nowhere, and grabbed my little hacksaw that I use for cutting thicker branches when I’m pruning trees.  I’d grab a handful of bamboo, and saw at it like it was one large branch.  It went much quicker than individually cutting stalks and pulling them out, and left me with little stubs of bamboo sticking out of the ground.  With this method, at least when I was finished it looked like there had been some progress, even if it does grow back.  Rain was forecasted for the afternoon, so I hurriedly poured straight up Round Up concentrate directly on the stalks.  “Bottoms up,” I told the stalks.  I really hoped they were in a drinking mood.

Before - Right

Before

After - Right

After

This morning when I took a look, the remaining stubs had yellowed slightly, but didn’t look completely worse for wear.  I suppose only time will tell if it actually poisoned them completely.  I vowed to myself that I would make it a point to check on it throughout this season to see if there seems to be places where it’s getting its second…make that its third…wind.  Like any problem, hoping it will just go away on its own doesn’t work.  Again, another life lesson taught to me courtesy of yard work.  I never stop seeing metaphors for life in the yard and garden.

Before - Left

Before

After - Left

After

When I was finished, I saved a few stalks of the bamboo and put them in a pot.  I want to be able to be remind myself of how a seemingly small act like allowing something as innocent and seemingly beautiful as a slender stalk of bamboo into my space can turn out to have extreme repercussions that take a lot of work to remedy.  For now, that side along the house will remain minimal and barren, until the solution has run its course and I once again can plant something shade-loving (and much less invasive) there.  There is a bright side to this journey with the bamboo, though, in addition to those free life lessons it’s provided me.  Next winter, when it’s cold and nasty outside and I start getting the plant catalogs in the mail, I have a whole side of the house to design and plan.  Maybe a variety of Hostas or some native plants like False Indigos or Blue Lobuia.  And I’ll do my research in the plant section, not the poetry section.

Bags

The St. Louis Zoo

Love the Zebras!  So unique.

Love the Zebras! So unique.

Here lately, it’s a pretty amazing feat any time that all five of us in our family manage to do any family activity together besides the occasional meal at the dinner table. But a few Sundays ago, it happened to fall into place-the girls wanted to DO something besides hanging out at the house and Tyler happened to have the afternoon off when we had a Sunday afternoon at our disposal. So we went to the St. Louis Zoo.

Normally when we're at the Zoo, it's too hot or too cold and the cats are hiding somewhere.  It was great getting to see them out and about.

Normally when we’re at the Zoo, it’s too hot or too cold and the cats are hiding somewhere. It was great getting to see them out and about.

Out and about today!

If you’re not from St. Louis, let me tell you our Zoo, located in Forest Park, is absolutely amazing. Though you have to pay for parking if you choose to park in the Zoo’s lot, admission to the Zoo is still free. And our Zoo has a rich history (as does Forest Park in general). It started with the walk-thru flight cage, originally part of the 1904 World’s Fair. The City paid $3,500 for it back in 1917. You can check out the Zoo’s history at http://www.stlzoo.org .

So this guy in the Walk Thru Bird Cage was friendly.  He was mugging for the camera...even playing peekaboo!

This bird in the Walk Thru Bird Cage was friendly. He was mugging for the camera…even playing peekaboo!

Peek a Boo–A little blurry, but this little guy was a hoot!

Ask anyone who grew up in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, and they will probably recall school field trips as well as family visits to the Zoo. I remember in first grade we went there and when my kids were in elementary school they always did a Zoo field trip in third grade. Both of my Girl Scout troops participated in Snooze at the Zoo, where we spent the night at the Zoo participating in fun educational activities, including a night hike. They also hold this event for families as well—you can read about it on their website. My favorite part was being able to go through the herpatorium at night with flashlights covered in red plastic film as to not disturb any reptilian eyeballs. Seeing the snakes and amphibians poised in the eerie light had a certain creepiness factor unlike when you see them in the normal light of day. We learned a lot about how the Zoo operates and works with other Zoos in how they choose to breed the animals. Hint: Sometimes the females and males that would make great offspring do NOT like each other. Both times our troops went it was winter, so we slept inside the buildings (with Erin’s troop we slept right under the stuffed display of world-famous Phil the Gorilla) but they have these events in the summer, too, where you can sleep outside under the stars.  As a Girl Scout leader, it was one of the most enjoyable trips we have done…and there have been several.

The rhino seemed to be in a little bit of a bad mood.  It was hot though.

The rhino seemed to be in a little bit of a bad mood. It was hot though.

He must have felt better getting in the water.

He must have felt better getting in the water.

When we went as a family, we were able to see the Sea Lion show. The sea lions are my favorite. Even Tyler made the comment that they seem so happy, it just makes you happy to watch them. They re-opened the Sea Lion exhibit a few years back and now you actually walk through a tunnel that goes through the water tank where the sea lions are swimming around. I was a little bummed that they were off eating or something when we walked through, so we didn’t get to see them up close in the walk-through tunnel. But I have some great pics from the show.

The sea lion pups really know how to perform.

The sea lion pups really know how to perform.

Check out Mandy getting her treat.

Check out Mandy getting her treat.

I took some pictures with my phone camera and thought I’d share some of my favorites. Have a great weekend!

Owl pose for you.

“Owl” pose for you.

Oh, how dignified!

Oh, how dignified!

Lemurs are just hilarious to watch.  They were behind glass, so I didn't get the clearest pic, but he just looks SO relaxed!

Lemurs are just hilarious to watch. They were behind glass, so I didn’t get the clearest pic, but he just looks SO relaxed!

Check out his face! I’ll bet he was just DYING to say something about it being hump day, but couldn’t as it was the weekend.

The hyena didn't seem to be laughing...he was stalking something while we were watching him.  Very intense dude.

The hyena didn’t seem to be laughing…he was stalking something while we were watching him. Very intense dude.

Again, behind glass, so a little blurry.  However, he just looked "cozy" or something all curled up like that!

Again, behind glass, so a little blurry. However, he just looked “cozy” or something all curled up like that!

Weekend Larks

Emily and Erin on the float...they were the only ones who didn't get tipped by the boater!

Emily and Erin on the float…they were the only ones who didn’t get tipped by the boater!

One of my favorite things our family does in the summer is go on weekend larks. We don’t actually call them that, but “road trip” makes it sound like we’re going cross-country or something. What we do is more local than that, but fun just the same.

During the school year, between sports, school activities, Girl Scouts, etc., we usually find our weekends taken up with at least one day where we’re obligated to be somewhere. I love how in the summer we have a little more flexibility on weekends. While a whole weekend getaway is preferable, sometimes we can only do a Saturday or Sunday day away—a mini lark, I guess you could call it.

So last weekend, we got to have our Weekend Lark in the form of the Third Annual Float trip/Camp Pick up weekend. We started this tradition when both Emily and Erin used to go to camp in Vienna, Missouri, near Rolla. The first year, Darrell, Tyler and I came down on Friday night and rented a cabin at Meramec State Park. We picked the girls up as usual, but instead of going home like they expected, we took them to the cabin and went on a float trip for the day. They were so surprised and the whole weekend away from the normal refreshed us as a family.

The next year, our friends’ daughter went to camp with Erin, so we made it a multi-family trip. The cabins at the State Park were all booked, so we took a chance on a hotel in St. Clair that Darrell found called Budget Lodging. Their tagline is “A Touch of Class for Less”. Turns out, both our families love this little hotel. As far as accommodations go, it’s not anything fancy or unusual—clean rooms, nice breakfast, and swimming pool. But the charm of the place is not what you find at Super 8. Maybe because it’s a little like walking back into the late 1980s, complete with the picture of the proprietor, Letha Hickenbotham, at the front desk. The first time we were there, we were amazed to see they still had one of those credit card machines where you roll the handle over the carbons. And actual room keys, not the credit card kind. Now, staying at this cozy little hotel is just part of the fun of the weekend with the main event being the float trip.

Although a float trip on the weekend with kids can be a little bit of a vocabulary lesson for younger ears, the part of the river we float is usually pretty tame compared to some other places nearby. You do get a bit of a rowdy, partying crowd here and there. Most of the time it’s just college-age kids trying to impress one another, and they’re easy to tune out. We tipped our canoe this year, in part thanks to some guy with a small motorized boat that made enough wakes to flip it into the bank, but we came out unscathed—muddy and down two beers, but with great memories.

Because memories are what the Weekend Larks are all about. When I remember summers past with our family, those fun little larks are one of the things that stand out most to me. Stopping at gas stations that boast the “World’s Largest Rocking Chair” and not feeling guilty about snacking on a Zero candy bar for lunch. Picking places to stop based on the cleanliness of the bathroom and if you can pull to the gas pump easily with the boat. Radio stations in the middle of nowhere where you can hear the stock report, the gospel and the local obituaries read in a monotone voice as you’re driving home on Sunday morning. Lark traveling moments we still laugh about together.

So while I’ll never turn my nose up at a cruise or Caribbean island vacation, these larks—well, they’re special, too. What would summer be without them?

Where’s My Panda? Thoughts on Bamboo

Photo from dididado.org

Innocent looking enough, no?

If you were to drive down my street today you might not be able to tell, but I really enjoy working in the yard. Right now, we have a fledgling Crepe Myrtle in the front yard that doesn’t look like it made it through our cold and seemingly endless winter. However, my Asiatic Lily bulbs clustered around the base of it are about to bloom, so I don’t want to dig it out just yet. So we have a dead tree in the front. Surprisingly just today I got a flyer hung on my door for a tree service company. Go figure.

Digging in the dirt is something I have loved since we got our first house and I knew almost nothing about plants and landscaping. My mother-in-law taught me a lot about cutting back trees—especially not to be afraid of cutting back overgrowth. Every time I trim back bushes and trees I think of what she told me a long time ago when she compared it to raising kids. She said you have to prune back places hard sometimes, but that would allow the best parts to grow stronger. Isn’t that a great analogy to how kids grow? Like trees, the kids who are never given loving, shaping guidance to grow their best will eventually lose all form and become overgrown without direction.

Last weekend I definitely overcame my fear of trimming back hard when it came to some bamboo I planted about six years ago on the side of our house. For the past three to four years, I’ve been trying to get rid of it. It has proven to be very hard to get rid of. Originally, I planted it because I had this romantic notion from a story I read called The Fern and the Bamboo (posted below) and I loved the look of the wild bamboo that grew along the roadside on the winding roads through wine country in Missouri. The next summer after we’d moved in, I saw some wild bamboo on our way to take the kids to camp. When we went to pick them up, I brought a pot with a little dirt in it and a shovel, and we dug some up by a boat ramp. My Uncle Russell, who has an awesome green thumb, advised me to be careful about planting it. “It will take over and grow everywhere,” he told me. At the time I thought it’d be great, because it was the side of the house with the chimney and a slope that was a pain to mow. I would whack my head on the end of the chimney every time I’d mow that side. Every time. True story.

It looked nice for about a year. After that, it went bamboo crazy.

Those poor ferns—they never stood a chance. Bamboo has a root that reminds me of a dandelion. It grows straight down deep into the soil. Weed and lawn killer has little effect on killing the bamboo, in part because the root is so deep. So you have to dig it out—all the way out. I have worked on digging it out these past years and it comes back every year, albeit a little bit thinner. It went from about ten stalks of bamboo about 10 inches in diameter, to the entire side of the house in about three years. It has spread to my neighbor’s garden and in to the front of our house’s landscaping. It is determined—but then again, so am I!

Since there aren’t any Rent-A-Pandas around to loan me a panda to eat all of it, I continue to dig, pull and compost. And repeat. I’m almost there, with about 5 – 6 feet left in the little corner where it all started. It’s been a lesson learned in a most labor-intensive way. My advice? Never design your landscaping based on inspirational stories and listen to good gardeners’ advice. Oh, and stay away from the bamboo!


The Fern and the Bamboo

One day I decided to quit…I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality…. I wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God.

“God”, I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”

His answer surprised me.

“Look around”, He said. “Do you see the fern and the bamboo?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

“In year three there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit. The same in year four.

“Then in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.

Compared to the fern, it was seemingly small and insignificant.

But just six months later, the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.

It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle.

“Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo.. I will never quit on you.

“Don’t compare yourself to others.” He said. “The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful.

“Your time will come”, God said to me. “You will rise high”

“How high should I rise?” I asked.

“How high will the bamboo rise?” He asked in return.

“As high as it can?” I questioned

“Yes.” He said, “Give me glory by rising as high as you can.”

I left the forest, realizing that God will never give up on me. And He will never give up on you.

Never regret a day in your life.

Good days give you happiness; bad days give you experiences; both are essential to life.

Author Unknown

Springtime and Daffodils

My cousin, Ruth, took this picture of the daffodils by her garage.  Her picture inspired this post.

My cousin, Ruth, took this picture of the daffodils by her garage. Her picture inspired this post.

When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents.  I loved spending the night at their house, sleeping in Grandpa’s undershirts (even when I brought my own PJs with me), drinking homemade milkshakes and baking fun stuff with Grandma.  Days at Grandma’s—it was always Grandma’s house and Grandpa’s car to me—were full of endless rounds of “Go Fish”, Crystal Gayle records and swinging on the homemade swing in the big maple tree in their backyard.  I’d jump rope on the back porch, roller skate in the basement and type nonsense on Grandpa’s typewriter.  It was good to be a kid at Grandma’s.  It’s true that my grandparents spoiled me, but they also loved me in a special way that no one else has ever loved me—before or since.

Since my mom is an only child, my older brother, Kevin, and I were Byron and Vivian Long’s only grandchildren.  They had grown up in a small town called Rector, Arkansas, and moved to St. Louis when they got married in 1941 so that my grandpa could get a job up here.  Grandma was a housewife.  She never learned to drive, so Grandpa took her everywhere she went.  She was reserved, a little shy even, but with us kids she completely showered us with affection.  Grandpa was one of the most selfless, genuine people I’ve ever met.  He had a silly side that always delighted me.  When our visits would come to an end, he’d do silly, waving dances for us in the driveway until the car was out of sight.  He was smart, too, and was one of those people that if you asked him a question he didn’t know the answer to, he’d find a way to look it up.  Keep in mind this was 35 years before the internet.

Grandma and Grandpa always had a small garden in their backyard.  I remember chasing away the bunnies that would eat the little yellow flowers on the cucumber plants.  One year, though, they had a rabbit Grandma called Bunnikens.  They let the grass grow long in the yard where Momma Bunny kept her nest.  Every Spring Grandma’s house would have flowers all around.  The back of the house had a huge snowball bush as tall as the house.  In the front there were always daffodils that Grandma called yellow jonquils.  They were the bright yellow ones.  I loved those flowers, and Grandma would always cut me a bunch to take home. She’d wrap up their stems in wet paper towels and put aluminum foil around them so I could take them home with me.  It felt like I was taking a little bit of Grandma’s house with me.

Years later, after my grandparents passed away, my parents and I had the task of cleaning out their house and putting it up for sale.  Grandma had died in 1996, and Grandpa lived almost ten more years, living out the last few of them with my parents in their home.  Needless to say, the landscaping in front of Grandma’s needed some attention; except in early Spring when the daffodils were in bloom the area by the front porch needed some color.  In the fall of 2005 when we listed the house, I dug up as many of the bulbs as I thought I could find a spot for at my house and replanted some tidy, boring shrubs in their place.

The bulbs stayed in a bag almost two years.  I never got around to planting them at our house, which turned out to be a blessing because we moved the next summer into a new home where I finally planted them.  Every year they pop out in front of the garage.  Today they are all covered with buds, ready to open this week.  I love seeing those daffodils come up because they don’t care if it’s a long, cold, snowy winter.  They still come up—even in snow—their yellow heads a joyous golden testimony to the inevitable Spring.

The unassuming daffodil will always be my favorite flower; its simplicity reminding me of the unconditional love of two of my all-time favorite people and a time when happiness grew in bunches by the front porch.

Grandma and Grandpa Long--still two of my favorite people who ever walked this planet!

Grandma and Grandpa Long–still two of my favorite people who ever walked this planet!

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