Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Rainy days, but not Mondays, always get me down.  For anyone under, say, 50 years old, the pop music reference and partial retraction probably went right by.

Mr. A slept in, so soothed by the rain drops that kept falling on the roof, (vintage music alert) he incoherently asked me if rain was in the forecast today.  I burst out laughing in decibels surely not appreciated at his level of consciousness, but that is a difference we have to dance around daily.  In case you didn't know, I am the one who wakes the roosters and he is the one to pull the shades on the night watch.

Sleeping in is the last indicator of sloth on Mr. A's part.  I don't know anyone more productive than he.  When he's not busy producing signs, he's actively trying to sell them, and when he's not engaged in either of those endeavors, he's often in the middle of something creative.

Like the swing pictured above.  (Is it ever freeing to put sentence fragments on my blog!  :D )

We attended a wedding two summers ago at Alcyone Plantation which made us feel like we'd walked onto the set of a lavishly budgeted movie.  Twinkling white lights, man and God made, and a beautiful waxing crescent moon hung on a blue velvet backdrop enhanced a truly enchanted evening.

(front view of Alcyone Plantation)

Then there was this back porch swing, fastened to the bottom of the second floor balcony, creating a long, lingering back and forth arc.  It was the perfect observation point to see the guests in the garden and the dancers under a white tent so large, a chandelier hung from its peak.  

I had a back yard swing, but it didn't swing like that.  

I look out the sliding door one day and spot Mr. A in his bucket lift, amending his original design of the swing frame, raising the height not quite to second floor level, but plenty high enough to recreate the slight tummy flip on the ascent of the swing.  While he was at it, he built a platform, too.

We, meaning Mr. A, Maggie the Australian shepherd granddog and I, sit in the swing, walk back as far as our legs will go, Mr. A counts, "One, two three..."  We raise our feet and there is lift off!  It's sweetly exhilarating, every time, and more times than not we reminisce about a lovely evening in the summer of 2011, custom made for love.    

Like my swing.  

It's getting a bath today, but soon, very soon, we'll be in the back yard, just a-swingin'.  


(We heard this song about two zillion times during our early/mid 1980s courtship.)

Until Winter Storm Boreas fizzles, 

Mrs. A    



Friday, November 22, 2013

Gardening for the Hopeful

Like any other child, I took for granted the things surrounding me, which in my case, bore a slight resemblance to an episode of "Hoarders".  Amongst the clutter were a number of beautiful things, such as my grandmother's Christmas cactus.  Not to be secular, I have begun calling the mother plant a Holiday Cactus.  Through the years, it has bloomed at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The mother plant, according to my mother, arrived in her mother's home in the 1940s.  My best guess is it was a piece rooted from one of her five sisters' collections as that was the primary way their gardens, container and otherwise, grew.  By me, the plant was largely ignored for the better part of 40 years. 

After my mother passed away, one of my brothers moved all of her front porch plants into the front yard and several were beginning to suffer in the intense Georgia sunlight.  Suddenly, the beautiful plants tugged a root in my heart, and I picked up several pieces of my mother and grandmother's lives to bring to my home and nurture.  While my mother was still living, she tried to get me to take the mother plant home, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  It was in full bloom, and in hindsight I realize she knew that was the last time she'd see it bloom.  I told her to enjoy it and I'd get it later.   

Still, keeping my word was a brave move for someone whose thumb has evolved from black to brown.  If that is an apt description of your thumb, a Schlumbergera or Zygocactus is a good place to begin with plants.  If I haven't killed them, you probably can't either.  Actually, I once read a person wasn't a real gardener until they'd killed at least three of every species.  I'm well on my way to becoming a real gardener.  (pausing the mourn the dozen dwarf azaleas, patterned red, white and pink, I killed with plastic bags meant to protect them from the cold) 

The mother plant today: 


It was full of buds when I brought it in from the front porch last week.


On the right of the following photograph is one of the mother plant's babies, an emergency birth after I knocked the mother plant down, broke the pot she was in, an unfortunate run-in with a water hose on the front porch.  The white Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus was a gift from some precious neighbors, and it, too, chose to bloom prior to Thanksgiving this year.  

Nurturing plants numbers among many things I didn't foresee myself doing in my life, along with marriage, homemaking and children.  I'm so thankful the Lord had other plans!  My plants bring beauty and joy into my life, and a bit of sacrifice from my dear husband.  He bought a kit greenhouse to store my ever increasing collection of front porch plants over the winter.  Building it was the sacrifice. 
It took his genuine building genius, the input of his brother whose career was inspecting aircraft manufactured by Lockheed, and my interpretation of the illustrations, to bring the greenhouse from a flat box to its present dimensions.  The wooden platform is a generous addition of height as its designer must have had a 5' woman in mind and I'm 5'7".  The hexagon shaped pavers on the bottom also came from my childhood home.  I remember when my daddy placed them along each side of our driveway in the mid 1960s.     
I'm fairly certain one of the reasons my older son flew the coop was to avoid the labor of moving the plants seasonally.  He would do it, God love him, but he made it clear he hated doing it, and after living independently for nearly five years, he still hates the memory of messing with my plants. 
...see the garden cart?  (Don't let me insult your intelligence, but if you're like me and need the visual boost and computer tips, click on the picture to make it larger, then click on the X in the upper right to return to the blog.)  It replaced a wheelbarrow which now resides at his house, along with a pair of ratchet loppers he fell in love with after borrowing.  His sweet father, Mr. A, generously donated both.  My son has no intention of becoming a gardener, but he has discovered there is no getting around yard work at the house he and his wife bought last year. 
The white vinyl "building" houses my flower pots and all the paraphernalia needed to be a black-brown-trying-desperately-to-be-green-thumbed gardener.  Mr A also fashioned a potting bench for me, far left, complete with hooks to hold small gardening tools. 
So many times I have felt like the richest poor woman in the world.  This is one of them.  I dream of a greenhouse three times this size and a tiller to break ground of future rose and vegetable gardens.  I've had a number of dreams come true in my life, including having a book published, and discovered cherishing small beginnings is the first step.
And I've lived long enough to learn to be content if small beginnings remain just that.  We can't take one thing out of this world with us when our time comes, but maybe, just maybe, we can leave a bit or two of the things we love for our families to see, beautiful reminders of the ones they've loved. 
I'm not counting on either of my sons to pass on my love of plants, but in God's and their timing, when the grandchildren come, I've already envisioned myself holding a little one's hand and teaching him or her to identify the plants I love, gardenia, hibiscus, kalanchoe, peace lily, philodendron, Christmas cactus, begonia...  And that's just the ones on the porch.
We're going to have a blast in the yard!  By then, my rose and vegetable gardens should be well established. 
Much love and good day!
Mrs. A

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

To Do List

  He's sweet, he's handsome, and he's mine!  Taken on our 27th anniversary trip to St. Augustine, FL, September 2013

"Love me with every beat of your heart.  Pray for me.  That'll make me happy."  So said Mr. A when I asked him last night what I could do for him today. 

That's an item which stays on my dailies and Psalm 91 is often prayed over/for him, for our grown children as well.  For an impressively exhaustive way of praying for husbands, I highly recommend Stormie O'Martian's "The Power of a Praying Wife Devotional".  I found my copy at Lifeway Christian Books in Valdosta, in my favorite section, bargain books. 

If she left a stone uncovered, I have yet to discover it.  My copy of another book of hers, "The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children", is highlighted, post-it-noted, and abundantly written on in the margins.    

Mr. A's mother often said there can never be enough prayers.  I couldn't agree more, and more so the older I become.  When I was in my early 20s, dating Mr. A, I was well aware of his parents spending a lot of time in prayer for their seven children.  They were in their 70s then, and this good habit continued for most of the rest of their lives. 

Grannie, my mother's mother, prayed faithfully that I would find a good husband.  Her prayer was answered, and she confirmed it herself saying, "I don't think you could have looked the world over and found a better husband."  (I had quit looking.)   

I'm sure she put in prayer time that I would be a good wife and the good Lord knows that was desperately needed!  God rest my parents' souls, they were a match that seemed to be made more in hell than heaven.  There is something to be said, though, for Romans 8:28: 

New International Version (NIV)

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

In their marriage, I gleaned a number of ideas of what not to do.  And to their great credit, they stayed married until death did they part, over circumstances that would have the lesser-hearted running for divorce court.

I wanted my children to grow up in a more peaceful environment than I had, and that was before I ever had children, had a prospect to make children with, and was beginning to think I'd never be married and would work and be self-sufficient the rest of my life.  

I've heard a good way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans.  Those weren't exactly my plans, but more what I thought was realistic.  

Enter the fruit of Grannie's prayers, seemingly out of the blue.  We were match made by a fellow who has had and released four wives.  That was not a typo.  Four.  His divorces are not remotely funny, but God is, His choice of persons to bring us together.  This man *told* us we belonged together.  I wish he'd had better luck in his own love life, but luck has absolutely nothing to do with it.

I'm thoroughly convinced, always will be, that Grannie's prayers were absolutely, positively answered in the best possible manner.  

My husband deserves my prayers.  Not that my prayers are so wonderful--I've already admitted to looking to outside sources for help in that department--but the God we pray to is so awesome!  His mother, who was so faithful to pray for her children, deserves someone to pick up that mantel of prayer for her son.

Pray for your spouse.  Pray for your children's future spouses.  

I cannot comprehend why the God of all factored our prayers in His plans.  Why would He outsource something He could do magnificently without our contributions?  I don't know.  But I do know, and believe with all my heart, He hears our heart.  

And don't forget to thank Him!

What a wonderful gift it is to have someone to walk through this world with.  

 Genesis 2:18 NIV
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

Proverbs 18:22 NIV
He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.

Mr. A has blessed my life and our children's lives.  Understatement of the year.  The very least I can do happens to be the very most I can do, honor his request that I pray for him.

I'm off to do just that. 

Love and blessings,

Mrs. A


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Nest Is Not Empty

June 17, 2013
journal entry--the handwritten kind

First "ordinary" day as an empty nester.  I am coming to loathe that term already as my home is not empty.  It is comfortable and adequate, well-stocked, even a living thing with people, pets and plants.  Calming classical music plays, a refreshing change from the constant yammer of bad news. 

Where young adults once resided are rooms that house a potential guest, a home library, a computer and photography room.  Their time here, as all adult life, seemed fleeting, and their time to make a nest of their own has come.

I cautiously predict what is to come, as often the Lord surprises us with His plans just as we have formulated our own, but a season to lavish love and attention undivided on my husband may be here.  I know better than to make him my sole focus, but the sweet companionship will be cherished. 

The time has come for us to trust our raising and return our attention to us as a couple.  The season of prayer warrior and advisor (as needed) is here.

Brave words for barely one week gone by of life without any offspring in residence.  It got harder before it got better, and that is said at the five month mark.  The younger of my two sons moved out, all the way out to Englewood, Colorado.  His girlfriend of five years will graduate from the local university the first week of December, and that occasion will also be the first I've seen my baby boy since he pulled out of our driveway on June 10th. 

He began his first post-college job on my 50th birthday, June 24th. 

This was taken the day he and my husband began the cross country drive to Colorado.  The rocking chair was for me, a la Grannie on a 1960s sitcom, "The Beverly Hillbillies".  She moved across the country, too, from southern swampland to Californy, seated in a rocker atop the Clampett family jalopy.  Alas, I and the rocker stayed behind to begin a new phase of my life as well, one that deserves another name that doesn't have the word "empty" in it.

Even his former room wasn't left empty.  It took me all of two days to transform it into a home library/guest room.  As you can see in the picture above, of his worldly goods, only what fit in his Explorer went with him to Colorado.  Tip for the moving--if you drive an Explorer, U-Haul will not rent a trailer to you.   Their policy meant a bed, dresser and night stand left behind, hence the room's new function.

After this photograph was taken, I even shipped him the comforter seen in the lower left and replaced it with one covered in roses. 

I can't express adequately how happy I am he'll be sleeping in the guest room at least one night of his stay for the graduation in December and again during Christmas!  I've even ordered a new blanket to go on the bed as I sent all the warm bedding in the linen closet to his new apartment in Englewood.

I can express that there is indeed life, good life, after the children become adults and create homes of their own.  As I type this, my belly is still warm with a delicious potato sausage chowder Mr. A and I cooked together.  As he stirred and I chopped, he gave thanks "for a woman who cooks for a man."  I give thanks that he gives thanks!  It is his policy of helping with clean-up which complements mine, cooking for him and me.  

Earlier, while we were walking hand-in-hand about the property and through the woods on the adjoining land, in family estate, we spoke of the beautiful sunshine-filled day and pointed out small strips of sunlight on the carpet of leaves and straw near the pond.  He had joined me on the last lap of five, each one taking approximately eleven-and-a-half minutes at my heart-strengthening brisk pace, but together we strolled a leisurely twenty, interrupted by a smooch in the woods.  

He asked if I'd ever been kissed in the woods before and I said, "Yes, by you!"  He didn't forget.  He was just checking my memory.  

We haven't forgotten us.  The memories of our lives together and with our children are rich and tangible--we live in the same home we started in over 27 years ago.  We had a child shortly after our first wedding anniversary, but we'd had nearly four sweet years together as a couple prior to his birth.  As we walked, we planned a Christmas celebration for two, visiting nearby Thomasville, Georgia for their Victorian Christmas festivities, a tradition the town began, interestingly, 27 years ago.

We're also planning a family Christmas here at The Ponderosa, and I look forward with great joy to that as well.  I've already begun purchasing stocking stuffers, a big fat hairy deal of a tradition for us and now including a daughter-in-love from my older son and a daughter-in-heart by my youngest.

In the meantime, my life and my home is not empty.  It is an adjustment, to be sure, but Mr. A and I are up for it.           

Monday, November 18, 2013

Comparisons, not cool

 Fall, as it is in southern Georgia, is sometimes maligned as nonexistent or considered an extension of summer.  Comparisons are made to other portions of the United States:  Our fall lacks the magnificent color change; how fall should feel does not match the temperature gauge. 

 Comparisons are odious.  South Georgia fall temperatures and colors cannot resemble North Georgia's anymore than the topography.  There are no mountains to hike, if anything, the ground beneath is subject to suddenly sinking when limestone beneath the surface dissolves.  Not far from this carpet of leaves and straw exists such a depression in the earth, albeit a minor one, not the house-gobbling news-making size.   

I found a bit of flaming orange atop a crepe myrtle.  I also spotted a beautiful branch of oxblood colored leaves on a Bradford pear tree, but a steady rain arrived before I could capture it.  All not stunning as the dramatic colors created in other regions by a more marked decrease in green chlorophyll of the leaves, in other words, there is more sunlight and rain here.   

As I walked about the acreage, I thought of something a pastor spoke the day prior.  He said God does not compare us, that we are in a line of one before Him.  I mulled over the message of yesterday, gesturing to my left and right with my forefinger, thinking to myself I am not judged by the people on either side of me.  On a six-plus acre bit of land, I can gesticulate with abandon as none but the wildlife will see.  I then pointed behind me and silently added, not that person either.  Pointing in front of me to cover all directions, I said to myself, nor that person.

And I realized I'd drawn a cross in which I was standing in the center, the intersection of a rugged beam and crossbar.  To my sides and beneath were nail holes, above, blood stains from a crown of thorns.  If I remain in the center of His will, the abundant life Jesus gave me by this very sacrifice, there is no need to look left, right, behind or ahead.  

Yesterday as I listened to the anointed message, I wished I'd worn steel-toed boots instead of pretty slides encrusted with faux jewels, exposing ten sparkly pink results of a pedicure I didn't have to hide due to our temperate climate.  My life does not resemble the hectic pace so revered in an era of multi-tasking and constant electronic hook-up, badges self-pinned with exhausted hands honoring the quantity of tasks juggled, a sadly frenetic attempt to count one's worth.  I confess, I have often detected an unspoken peer pressure that I don't measure up.  Never mind a long and happy marriage, two children successfully educated, employed and launched, plus one book published. 

The present season of my life is one of prayer and contemplation.  Key words, season and my.

The Lord knows what is best for me where I am, same as His decree that parts of Earth might be more stunning than others in certain seasons.  I am where He placed me and with whom.  "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."  Psalm 16:6 ESV  This is a verse I found nearly three decades ago when I was pining to live in town amongst a bevy of neighbors instead of relatively rural isolation.  It was a divinely appointed discovery which signaled I was at the right place in the right time. 

During my customary hour-long walk on the same property I once longed to escape, I thanked the Lord for a pleasant husband, one who cherishes having a nearly ever-present home companion, and our sweet life together.  I thanked God for the companionship of a grand-dog, Maggie, who stayed behind when her master left to seek his fortune, and incidentally, climb mountains, in Colorado.  I said hello to the cat who won't die, 19-year-old Sassy, who was also left behind when her master went across town to his present destiny.

I pondered a lesson I tried to instill in my now grown children, we must fully appreciate where we are, else we may not be thankful for where we find ourselves next.  Funny how we must relearn lessons we once taught others.  As for myself, my geography remains the same and the Lord is speaking quietly in my heart the contented respect of the present in deference to where I am going. 

And for what it's worth, I detest cold weather and am grateful for every day considered unseasonably warm.  Just as they are not out of place or time, neither am I.                 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friday Lunch with Mr. A

Friday lunch with Mr. A, we wound up at the same place because we went together, Austin's Cattle Company.

In the second half of our life together, we have discovered we can't take for granted meeting at the same place.  There was another of our Friday lunch dates where I waited for him at Crystal River, a seafood restaurant, while he was waiting for me at Ruby Tuesdays.  Long story short, it was I who was at the wrong place at the right time but he who joined me because I'd already ordered! 


back at Austin's, the beef tips with onions and peppers and a side of steamed vegetables were divine, but the best part was learning something new about my husband as Grannie said I would--each day.

We were leaving under a very light rain and it triggered a memory in my husband. He said the first time he ate at Austin's was in the '70s, and when he came out of the restaurant, dew had fallen on his '62 Corvette and the sheen it gave the paint job, a blue metallic lacquer, enhanced by the parking lot lights, was simply beautiful.

There are no old flames in his life, but he romanced many a muscle car. I was awed by how lovestruck he was with the recollection of a beautiful automobile. I asked him to recall the last time he saw me in that light, thinking it might be our wedding day or some other day in the spring of our years together, and he said, "When you picked me up for lunch."

If you want to know something about enduring love and romance, ask an older man.

Fresh Apple Cake

Fresh Apple Cake

recipe from Mamie DeLoach Williams
my great-aunt, maternal grandmother's sister

Combine in large bowl:

1 1/4 cups salad or corn oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
3 cups fresh chopped apples

In another bowl, sift 3-4 times:

1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
3 cups plain flour

Stir well, add to apple mixture, then add

2 tsp. vanilla

Bake at 325° for 45'.  (The last one I made took 55'.)


1 stick oleo or butter
1 cup light brown sugar

Heat over low flame until melted, then add

1/4 cup can milk

Bring to full boil.  


1 tsp vanilla

Spread over cake.

(I typed this as it was written decades ago.  Additional tips, this recipe is for a 9 x 13 cake pan.  I used honey crisp apples and chopped the pecans to smithareens.  "Can milk"--Carnation evaporated milk.  I also poked holes in the cake so the icing would get down inside the cake.)