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To Keep Them

Not changing something is sometimes a relief. For instance, the grapevine that was planted in our garden before we arrived will stay. My husband and I have often talked about whether or not we should tear it out, but the backdrop of leaves makes a pretty sight, acts like a canopy behind the flowers, and it gives us some privacy. We have to watch our grapevine closely and cut away any little tentacles that reach out to wrap themselves around innocent flowers. When their direction gets changed that way, the vines grow to take a trip along a neighboring tree. They stretch and climb as far as they can. We let it go along the trees because we know it will be fine once freezing temperatures arrive. It’s too bad that other things live in the grapevine and are causing problems.

Last spring, I planted a tray of multicolored zinnias among the daffodils, irises, and yellow-four-o’clock flowers. As I checked the zinnias each day, I noticed some sort of insect got ahold of their leaves and worried they wouldn’t blossom and mature as they should. After they were planted, of course, I read zinnias like to have a lot of breathing space, plus it didn’t help that little bugs live in the grapevine. I hoped the zinnias would take over when the other flowers settled down. Now the coneflowers and phlox are making a grand appearance in our little garden – our treasure that’s stuck in the corner of our yard as if it’s our own little secret. There are times when I look at other gardeners neatly manicured show places and wonder what went wrong with our little potpourri. Even though theirs are perfection, our garden is more true to life, I think. It’s squished, has blemishes, craves attention, but is beautiful at the same time.

We could thin it out as we should, but we want to keep those flowers, just like we want to keep the grapevine. Almost all of the flowers made their beginning in my mom’s garden. Mom shared with us her daffodils, irises, four-o’clock flowers (which are all done blooming now), and coneflowers. Mom would probably laugh at how I’m taking pictures of flowers all the time because it used to drive me crazy the way she had Dad take pictures of all her little beauties. Now I know it’s another way to keep them since soon the cold weather will take them away.

Next year, we hope to expand the garden out a couple of feet, install a new border, and get rid of the decaying railroad ties that now frame our mixture of blossoms. I hope to plant zinnias or some hardier flower in the expanded spot. Hopefully they will be able to breathe there. We’ll also have to figure out how to trap the pesky pests.

Thankfully, the zinnias are doing better than expected but not looking as good as some of the neighbors. Talking and whispering sweet little nothings to them on a daily basis has helped. 🙂 If things go well, I hope to make another garden in the other corner of the yard.  Maybe if there were more flowers in our yard, our garden wouldn’t seem like such a secret.  I’d like to separate out some of the flowers and plant them in the new garden because I want to keep them.  Then, when the time is right, I’ll share those little beauties just like Mom did!

Weed it and reap. ~Gardening Saying

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The Painted Garden

One of the first signs of spring in Minneapolis is the Macy’s Flower Show which takes place in the 8th Floor Auditorium of Macy’s downtown store.  Every year all the colors are such a welcome sight for those of us who have been surrounded by white, drab snow.

This year the theme is the Painted Garden which celebrates India and the southern regions of Asia.   Every color ever imagined can be found here in the beautifully designed creations, and the fragrant flowers remind us that spring will soon be here!

The free event is being held from March 24 through April 7.  Most of the flowers looked great yesterday, but don’t wait too long because the hyacinths were starting to look a little tired.

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Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom.  They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.  ~Jim Carrey

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Easter!

The Closing

Old World Charm

“Your parents must have been very meticulous people,” she said as she looked down to inspect her neatly polished nails. The color of her nails matched the pink of her blouse. Seeing all this cleanliness and watching her bracelets bangle about made me wonder if she would keep up the garden.

“Yes, they were,” I said. What I pictured her to look like was very different from what I saw sitting across from me on the other side of the table. I remembered how the realtor said that she called him right away after the sign went up in the yard. She went to the first open house three times. First she visited by herself, and then she escorted different people around two other times. She called the realtor the following Tuesday to have a look again, went to the second open house with more visitors, and during the inspection, the realtor wondered if the report that the air conditioning wasn’t working properly was just a ruse for her to go show off the house again. I pictured her to be some sort of a neurotic person with all this fuss, but during the closing she was calm, happy and looked to be excited to move into her new home.

View from the Back Yard

“They were very neat, and managed to keep every piece of paper,” I said. This caused a chuckle amongst the group. Now that I had made it through the signing of the papers without getting emotional, I wanted to keep it that way. I opened up a packet of warranties and manuals that I had dug out of a box earlier that morning.

“. . . that you now have and are cleaning up,” our realtor finished my thought. I nodded in agreement, and leafed through the packet and explained some of the papers.

“How long did your Mom live there?” Mr. New Owner asked.

“60 years?” I said as I turned to look at my brother.

“Since 1950,” he said.

“That’s 62 years,” the other realtor said.

“Do you know how many people lived in the house before your parents lived there?” Mr. New Owner asked.

“Our Grandpa owned the house since the beginning, since 1927, and rented it out to a couple of families before our Mom and Dad bought it,” said my brother.

“That’s amazing,” said Mr. New Owner.

“Are those cupboards in the garage and in the basement the original kitchen cupboards?” Mrs. New Owner asked.

“Yes,” I said. For a minute I felt like she knew the house better than I did.

Mr. and Mrs. talked about how their children and siblings live close by and how the new lady of the house had been looking for a home on the south side of town, but then ended up on the north side. I wondered if she fell in love with the house right away. I remembered back to the time when I found the house where my family lives now. I knew it was going to be our house the minute I stepped inside.

I imagined that first time she walked into the first open house and saw the beautiful dark woodwork and the gorgeous chandelier in the living room that she fell for what our realtor called “Old World Charm.” Some things had been updated and remodeled over the years, but the house definitely has kept its Old World Charm.

As we turned over the keys to the outside doors and the many skeleton keys to the original doors inside the house, we admitted that we didn’t know which skeleton keys belonged to which doors. We also gave them the key to those old radiators that sometimes creak when the heat comes on.

I shook the hand of Mr. New Owner, and told him that I hoped they would be very happy there.

As my brother and I walked back to the car, I was sad but I also felt relieved. I knew I would miss our house since I knew it my entire life and we had so much family history there, but I was relieved that we didn’t have to worry about it any longer. We didn’t have to worry that it was just sitting there empty and all by itself. We didn’t have to worry that someone might vandalize it. We didn’t have to worry about the weeds that grew three feet from one Saturday to the next. We didn’t have to worry about making sure the bills got paid on a house where no one lived. I also knew that I didn’t have to worry about the new owners keeping up the house because they seemed to be very nice and meticulous people, just like the folks who used to live there.

Dad, Mom & Me

It Helps Us to Say Thanks


Can you find the frog?

They say the frog has been at Como Zoo since 1923, but when I looked at the pond, I thought it looked different from when I was a kid. I remember a small, greenish blue pool with wild things growing about. Now the frog lives in a very nice large pond surrounded by trees. Since the frog’s head looks straight towards the conservatory, he does not see the white pergola that is up on the hill just to the right of him. It looks as if the frog would be able to see the conservatory where he sits. He might even have been able to witness all the additions and improvements that have been going on over the years, if such a thing was possible.


The Como Conservatory


Pathway to the Sunken Flower Garden

The conservatory is where I went on field trips with my grade school classmates. We learned what banana trees look like and saw other sorts of vegetation that does not normally grow in Minnesota. After seeing all the greenery, we were happy to gaze at the surprising beauty of the colorful flowers in the sunken flower garden. It was nice to see that building has not changed, just as the frog has stayed the same.


These Photos are from the Sunken Flower Garden

All the talk about banana trees, led my classmates and me to the monkey. The monkey lived in a building where he could go look outside at us humans from behind bars, and then we could see him from inside the building too. Their homes used to look like something straight out of a Curious George Book. The lucky monkeys that live there now will soon be swinging about on a new and very large island that is being built just for them.

I quickly walked around the zoo since the humidity and heat caused rivets of sweat to stream down my back. A giraffe posed for me and seemed happy that I was taking his picture. The polar bear that just arrived from the recently flooded Duluth Zoo was hiding behind a rock trying to stay out of the scorching heat. The lions moped about and didn’t even want to play with their toys. Even Sparky the Seal was not scheduled to perform. The sea otter looked to be the happiest as he swam around in the circular pool of water gladly accepting little fish that the visitors bought to feed him.

There are lots of treats for people too. The antique popcorn wagon is always fun to see, and there are many other stands decorated with big bags of cotton candy where treats such as pop, hotdogs, and ice cream bars can be found. Now there are even places for people to sit down to eat.

There is even an amusement park where people who enjoy rides can visit.  It seemed as if their screams were muffled by the thick air. Nowadays, the beautifully carved carousel that was built in 1914 is protected by a large circular brick building.


Toby the Tortoise

I circled around the Toby the Tortoise statue to read some of the commemorative bricks. Some bricks show a path that is slightly worn down by the many people who have walked there. A lady’s face is etched into one brick, and another brick remembered the couple who walked around the park every day. If Mom and Dad were here, they would say not to make such a fuss because that was their way. Yet, when I saw the Como Friends magazine sitting on Mom’s table and remembered the times we visited the zoo and conservatory together and the picnics we went on, I thought it would be a good place to request donations in her memory. My brother agreed with me and said that Mom had asked to go for a visit there a few days before she died. Even though Mom and Dad wouldn’t want the fuss, it helps us to say thanks.

Now all we need to do is figure out what to put on the brick.

Cemetery Thieves Cause Emotional Rollercoaster Ride


courtesy of kimberkraft

As I looked to make sure that the words were spelled correctly, and that the dates were right, I started to feel that I needed to get some flowers. I hadn’t thought about getting flowers when we first arrived, but since it was Mother’s Day, it was the right thing to do.  Luckily there’s a flower shop close by. While we waited for the lady to put together a bouquet, my husband and I walked around the store. I had never been there before though I had driven by many times.

“Do you have any water?” the little man with gray hair asked me.

“No,” I said.  He must have noticed that I looked lost.

“The water isn’t on in the cemetery yet. I can get you a pop can filled with water.”

“Thank you.” It was a weird feeling, being at the cemetery without my mother. My mother and father always made sure that we paid our respects and visited the cemetery every Memorial weekend. It was a family outing, the kids going with Mom and Dad and even way back, with my Grandpa and Aunt. Mom used to bring peonies from her garden for my Grandma’s grave.

After my Dad passed away, my children and I went with Mom to make sure that the gravestones were swept off and that there weren’t any mysterious critters lurking about or grass growing where it shouldn’t. I cleaned off my Grandma’s grave most of the times because she was the one I never got to meet. Like I used to do when I was small, my kids read the dates on the gravestones trying to see which were the oldest.  Plus we made sure that no one ever stepped on the markers.

Mike and I went back to Mom’s gravestone. I unscrewed the bronze vase, poured in the water from the pop can, and placed the bouquet of flowers inside. Mom would have loved the sweetheart roses.  I know it would be important to Mom to have flowers placed on her grave and being remembered in a respectful way since it was always something she did during her lifetime.

The next week, I had to go back to the cemetery to make sure that the vase was put back the way it should be. Even though I called the cemetery and they assured me that the workers put the vases back, I just wanted to be sure.  Plus, I had a funny feeling.  When we pulled up to the familiar spot, I saw that someone had thrown the dried up bouquet on the side of Mom’s grave, and the bronze vase was gone. We looked around and saw that many other vases were gone. The grave markers looked so bare because there were holes where a vase had once been. I looked around and saw all the empty spots, and it made me so sad. A place where most people come to pay their respects had been tragically dishonored.

When we got back into our car, I told my husband that I felt violated.  I tried to imagine what type of person would steal from a cemetery.  That sad feeling stuck with me for days even though I tried to push it away.

On Thursday, when I came downstairs for breakfast, my husband told me that there was an article in the newspaper about how lots of vases had been stolen from gravesites from three different cemeteries on the north side.

“Did you bring that paper home from work yesterday?” I asked. We only get the paper delivered to our house on Sundays.

“No,” he said. “The paper was out on the steps this morning. This is today’s paper.”

“Isn’t that weird?” I kept asking over and over again.

“Your Mom wanted you to see what was going on,” Mike said.

If you want to read the article, click here.

On Friday morning when our clock radio alarm went off, the first news story we heard was that the vases had been found in a park.  I hope all the media attention scared the thieves off forever.  The vases are being inspected by the police for any signs of evidence, and then will be returned to the cemeteries.  You can read about it here.

I was very happy to hear that the vases were found and will be returned.

I wasn’t planning on going to the cemetery this weekend, since I was just there twice, but since it’s Memorial Day, it’s the right thing to do.

Mom’s Daffodils are Smiling at Me

Almost nine years ago, I looked inside the brown paper grocery bag Mom handed to me.  It was heavy.  There were around 100 flower bulbs in the bag.  Little pieces of dirt hung on to some of them, and other dirt fell off and got lost on the bottom of the bag.

“Did you dig all of these out of the garden all by yourself?” I asked.

She nodded yes.  Mom was 77 years old at the time, and I marveled at her strength and determination.  How could she dig all these bulbs out of the garden all by herself.  Her little frame of a body could be blown away by a strong wind.  She dug them out a little bit everyday until she was rid of the ones that she no longer wanted to decorate her garden.

“Mom, I can’t plant all of these in my garden.  I don’t have enough room.”

“You can give some of them to your friends.”

So I planted the ones that I could, and I gave some away to friends.  I planted the daffodil bulbs in the small garden in the corner of our yard.  I started at the front, and I spaced them out by the length of the handle of the shovel that I used to dig the holes.  Mom instructed me how deep the hole should be, and she made sure that I knew which way the bulb should point.  If you plant them upside down, it doesn’t work.

As I dug each hole I understood what Mom must have been going through when she dug them out of her garden.  Not only was it something for her to do and if you have a little bit of anger inside, I found that it is good to dig with a shovel into the ground.  Even though you think you understand why things happen, how the circle of life keeps turning, and how there is nothing we can do about it, I understood Mom wanted the flowers to bloom in my garden.  She wanted them there as a memory of my Dad who died earlier that year.

The next spring, the beautiful daffodils pointed their faces towards the sun and smiled at me, like I always hope Dad is doing. Every year since then, and this year, they are blooming beautifully.  Mom joined Dad almost two weeks ago now.  I am thankful for the many gifts she gave me, and right now I am especially thankful for the daffodils.  Mom’s daffodils are smiling at me, and I could use a smile right about now.

That’s One Thing My Mother Taught Me

“I have to go to physical therapy,” I said to my Mom.

“What happened?” she asked.

“I have a herniated disc.”

“That dog is too much for you,” she said.

“Oh, no, that’s not it,” I said.

One day, after trying to get out of bed, I realized that I couldn’t bend.  There was a pain that went from my bum to the back of my knee.  I couldn’t figure out what it might be.  Since the pain came and went for quite a while, I decided to go seek medical attention.  The doctor prescribed physical therapy, and after about four sessions, I felt much better.  The physical therapist said that my problem could have been caused by a bunch of different things combined.

Mom’s words still echo in my head when Lila pulls me along on our walks.  Even though I am starting to feel much better, I still feel that nagging little pain in the rear when she pulls me along.  Other things can bring a dull ache too, but being pulled this way does not help me feel better.  I have been working with Lila and am trying to teach her not to pull me along so much.  We learned this skill at the class that we took at the Animal Humane Society.  The trick is to stop walking when the dog starts pulling.  The dog turns around and looks like you have some sort of problem.  Lila hasn’t quite figured out why I keep stopping on our walks.  My rear and I hope that someday soon she will walk with me instead of pull me along.

The other day Mom wasn’t feeling very well.  I told her that I thought she might have overdone it when she was working in the garden.

“Oh, no, that’s not it,” she said.  “I don’t think so.”

It’s funny how we stick up for the things that make us happy.  That’s one thing my Mother taught me!