11.30.17 Still thankful

Lord, you have taken the Pollyanna optimism and naïveté of my 20’s and 30’s and turned it into mature joy. The world leaves me shaking my head in disbelief on a daily basis. Yesterday my boss presented me with a ten-year pin with “sapphires “. That token, stowed in my desk drawer, caused me to reflect on my growth since my job started in 2007. I recall holding back a torrent of tears while I attended new employee orientation and signing up for health insurance and 401k accounts. God’s mercy was overwhelming. My first week, I received an invitation to an open house “to meet and find out about Nancy, our new Master Gardener Coordinator “.  This kind gesture turned me frigid with terror. Know me? Oh, please no! Divorced, broken, quirky, depressed, and panicked. Hide me, Lord!

But that’s not true today. My friend, Kathryn visited on Sunday, and for the first time I said aloud what I’ve thought for months. There were parts of me that I’ve labored to hide for years, even since the divorce. Randomness directionality challenges, body in space weakness, and even my interests and avocations were secrets for those who didn’t know me well. To Kathryn: “I am now me, no masks, just as I am, in all parts of my life. In leisure, Work, faith, family and in the community. Perhaps this is the gift of life in my sixth decade.

And the woman who wanted everyone to “know” me? She has grown too. A staunch ultra-conservative (& formerly with a very “nice Christian” style challenged me at a board meeting. My organized, firm reply met her objections. Still so very thankful.


5.10.17 Animal Kingdom

If this is Monday,  what about the rest of the week ?  I considered staying home nursing and icing a swollen knee. My prize for toughing it out? Monthly staff meeting.   arriving early gets you a seat not under the a/c vent. Took my usual place  beside Steve. We really should not be allowed to sit together.  What fun did he have over the weekend, I asked, as four  other co-workers filed in the room. “Oh, castrated some bull calves.” Sensing my lack of experience, he described two options for the process. After picturing that, I turned to my coworkers and said, “I bet you’ve never done that!” , with a smug smile. .  It turns out all four of them had! Thomas admitted that it had been a while.  How could I call myself an Extension professional with no castration experience? Much hilarity ensued. Emails, phone calls and meetings led to errands to prep for the week.

Picked up organic herb plants for a volunteer teaching a container gardening class later this week. Arrived home with swollen knee to Sam marinating chicken for a cook out with friends.   He whipped some up for his mom early, and guilted me into eating a salad with it. Role reversals. Added a  nice limey gin and tonic (purely medicinal) with his magic touch.   Delicious, relaxing end to the day, until…… “there’s a raccoon, up in tree! Sunday there was a small bunny. Last week a couple of snakes.  I probably have a whole menagerie living in the Hugelkultur. The Audubon sign is coming down. No more welcome mat. audubon

4.19.17 Conversations

When you live alone, sometimes you act strange. Sometimes it takes playing a game to make myself do chores inside when I’d be much happier outside. Eccentricities should be expected at age 60 1/2. My dad would say “you might as well say 61”, but I’m not rushing this year along any faster. Each day at 3:45-ish, a neighbor walks by with her two dogs. This is the highlight of the day for Chester and Scooter. If we are in the backyard, I shout, “Friends!” and they run to the front fence with an unrestrained, loud greeting. I greet the neighbor and try to say a few words which are always drowned out by the yips and yaps. What are those howls and woofs saying? There is a letdown and cleaning of paws after they leave.

Today I was startled by a neighbor walking by while I was speaking with my plants. I never thought I would be that old lady muttering to nobody in particular. The dogs were on the other side of the yard, so I couldn’t even claim that I was talking to them. The conversation went like this. “Carolina geranium, I tried to be fair and let you stay, but you have taken advantage of this situation. Spreading your stems out so no other plants can get in is just wrong. You have to go. You have become a yard thug.” I looked up and said to my neighbor without thinking twice, “I’m just talking to my plants.” She then jumped as my dogs took flight and lunged at the fence. I was thankful that I didn’t have to witness her reaction to my plant chat.

3.27.17 Spiders and Ants

This week two clients kind of stood out in the middle of a whirling dervish kind of week. The first arrived on a 78 degree day with a knitted wool hat, winter coat, boots and a cool little cane that doubled as a chair. She was probably in her 80’s. She had called, worried, the day before and our admin. called my cell at home to see when I’d be in to handle her the next day. “9 am – 3pm. Have her come back”. I called her in the morning just to make sure she knew I was willing to talk with her about her problem. No answer, but at 2:30 she came, decked out in winter attire. Her problem? A spider. Did she have it with her? No, he (she?) had run down her quilt too quickly for her to catch. “He was so fast!” Could she describe it? “Yes, he had a very round, very black body with dreadlocks.” We checked some books from our library, Spiders and Their Kin The Audubon Guide to Spiders and Insects. No dreadlocks. I suggested some search terms on Google images. Spider dreadlocks black. The photos were a bit shocking and only a few were spiders. None matched her description. Not the wolf spider, nor the jumping spider “he ran, he didn’t jump”. “He was round, and ran so fast, but no legs.” I was getting suspicious. I showed her more photos and she pointed to a cartoon spider with a sly smile. That wss when I decided we were not going to find her spider. She kept saying, “I like you” “you’re fun” and told me all about her boys in 4-H, her grandson’s snakes and insisted that I try out her cane/chair. She cautioned me that I had to sit on it a certain way – or I’d fall over. She was concerned that it was 3pm and time for me to go. We went over Virginia Tech’s recommendations for spiders and I assured her the description was not like a black widow or tarantula. I told her to keep her eyes peeled and come back anytime. I love my job.

The next day a man handed me a pill bottle with a speck at the bottom. This bug was upstairs in his bathroom. I placed it under the microscope – yep – a two-node (pedicels) ant, black, attracted to water in the bathroom. I sniffed it – no coconut scent of an odorous house ant, no citronella smell of a Lasius claviger, the citronella ants. More detective work, and voila, a little black house ant! Common house ants which nest in woodwork, masonry, soil, and rotted wood. They feed on sweets, meats, vegetables, honeydew, and other insects, 1/8 inch long, slender, shiny black, sometimes dark brown with two nodes in the petiole and a 12-segmented antennae with a three-segmented club. The gentleman wanted to know how this ant could have gotten into his house?! I reminded him how small this specimen was. The discussion continued, while he wondered if his dog could have brought it in, perhaps it climbed in the door? But, the bathroom was on the second floor!? When asked how many of these ants he found, he said, “One.”

I bet no one has as interesting a job as I have. 90% human dynamics, 10% science. I’m striving to increase that to 50/50.

11.24.16 Thanksgiving Day

I considered writing a psalm of Thanksgiving as we did in days gone by with my kids, but moonshine doesn’t fit too well in that genre. Life continues to amuse me. God has a sense of humor. I guess my role in my neighborhood is the government worker who knows about all government agencies. Got a friend whose kid is being abused? Ask Nancy. Need questions answered about disabilities? Lean over Nancy’s fence and check with her. Watering my clovers today, expected rain is not on any radar. Neighbor leans over fence and my dogs go crazy. I greet him, but continue watering. Not in the mood for small talk. He walks over and gives me a Thanksgiving card and explains that he is up for review for disability for Bells Palsy, Lupus and asthma. Could I pray? Certainly. He mentions my fence post is rotting in the ground and my front gate could use reinforcing. He’d be glad to do it so my sneaky dog doesn’t escape. He also hints, then blatently tells me that he has three levels of moonshine that he formulates. 100, 140, and something even more potent. “Do you drink?” I consider for a moment including some moonshine as stocking stuffers. Musing, as I go back to my watering, I consider the works of His hands, his provision for me, even the funny neighborhood where He has placed me. Praise God from whom all
(craxy, wonderful, ridiculously funny) blessings flow.

8.11.16 Rapture in the Produce Section

I think I’m becoming older. Most days I feel 18 inside, and since getting new hips in 2015 and 2016, on the outside, my skeletal system too.  Yesterday capped off three days of hectic workdays and work nights – three in a row.  My brain was pretty floppy and tired.  I promised Sam ice for his sprained ankle, so leaving work at 8 pm I swung by the Shoppers for a few groceries.  We require more choices in our fridge when Sam’s around.  Pushing my cart in the produce aisle, I noted there were no fruits and vegetables. No meat or salads in the deli counter.  How strange.  A left turn into the ethnic food aisle, and there were no refried beans!  Is this the rapture?  No, there were people here. Surely I would be raptured?  The food was raptured?! Taken up in the sky to meet Jesus……  Then….. I noticed the sign in the front window which told me otherwise.  Store closing.  All groceries 30% off.   The thought of carrots and tomatoes and hummus rising up into the air to meet Jesus made me giggle. I loaded cheap toilet paper, peanut butter and gluten free burritos into my cart giggling down each aisle.   I’ve decided that life is pretty hilarious……and most folks miss it.

What makes me happy at almost 60?  Besides pushing a cart through an empty grocery store and giggling?   Haircuts, pedicures, talking to my dachshunds at home and watching them chase each other, having time to walk through the garden and weed in the morning before work, lots of limes with gin and tonic, a new book on my Kindle, coffee in bed,  vanilla almond creamer, hymns, and my Spotify playlist, a new load of leaf mulch and flowers that bloom all summer with little attention.  This is happiness.  Peter and Jaclyn will be married in 10 days.  Happiness is also growing flowers and memories that will speak love to them.    Jeff and Claire’s enjoyment of  each other, and also their contentment with being separated when Jeff travels.  Joyous reunions.  Sam home for the month of August and rejoicing in the Lords unique provision for each of them.  This is what 60 year old contentment.



Christmas night draws to a close. Full moon hidden behind fog and rain clouds. Full of love for my family, my home and my God. Sleep in heavenly peace.

11.30.15 Namaste

I am a satisfied customer of yoga and an unlikely convert to the world of quiet that the practice provides. My active, type A mind doesn’t quiet itself without a fight. I enrolled in yoga at the recommendation of Ellen, a friend and Master Gardener Volunteer, who is an endless source of inspiration and encouragement. I think she saw who I was the first time we met driven, healing, but happy. I’ve been going to Transform Power Yoga for 2 months now. The Yin practice IS quite transformative. I fought each step, the warm/hot room brought on hot flashes, the hip pain/tightness groaned each time I held most of the poses for 5 minutes. I hate the “banana” pose, but only on the left side, cursing the clock for its slowness. When Liba says “banana”, or after Thanksgiving “crescent roll” I reluctantly wiggle my feet inch by inch to the left side, each increment a battle in my mind. Once I arrive at a sad looking banana pose, I try to relax, but my hip screams, until the pose is done, then it feels oddly better. The left side is no struggle at all. The deep relaxation that I experience in Yin is unlike the way I feel even at night when I lie down to sleep. My goal is to experience some carry over into non-yoga moments while driving, walking (not that determined stride…) and when I come home at night from work late.

Vinyasa flow (heated) is a different story altogether. When I start I am warm already. By the end, every strand of hair and piece of clothing is dripping. I am amazed at what my body can do. Liba is a believer, and she adds such wisdom to this practice. “Stay in the pause” should be a motto for my everyday life. “The light in me honors the light in you”. Isn’t that a way to look at others as the ones that Jesus loves. When we do 3 ohms together is is reminiscent to me of Gregorian Chant, giving me the same calm and warm relaxation. I used to listen to chant when I wrote papers in graduate school (VT). The pose “happy laughing baby” makes me giggle. The right/left action often confuses me. The foam blocks have saved me from tumbling many times. The Lord is blessing this season of my life with yoga, more flexibility, less pain, avoiding left hip surgery, peace, fellowship with Ellen and hopefully more core strength. My physician even wrote a script for me to claim the cost towards my flex spending dollars. Namaste means the Lord’s peace and blessing to me.

11.23.15 Personal psalm

O Lord your faithfulness is

steady. You are present even when I am forgetful. You made me your own child when I was wayward . You saved me from my foolish desires and sins. You are a just and pure lover of my soul


11.11.15 Adventures in the backyard

Much has happened since the last entry.  Life has sped up. Body has healed. Claire is married. Sam is back at school. Peter has a new job.  Training class has started for the 9th year.  Bills paid. Chores done. Friends’ visits. Halloween party. Prayers. Yoga. God’s mercies continue.  Claire has encouraged me to write down the remarkable life/work moments.

  1. Groundhog adventure, take 4.  The dogs cornered a young (teenage) groundhog and rolled him around a few times, yelping and nipping.  The yelping is like no other noise – I know when there is an intruder in they yard when I hear that sound.  T Called the dogs off and put a 5-gallon bucket over him, called the dogs over, put one under each arm and walked them to the front gate.  Definitely an adrenaline cost to that adventure. The groundhog ran for his life, to be seen again the following day…
  2. Found an apricot colored slug – quite a nice color. Little appreciation from co-workers
  3. Bedbugs in ziplock this week.  smashed one while I was focusing on the other under the microscope.
  4. Hispanic gentleman came to office with a love story about his persimmon tree.  Losing leaves and dying.  I thought he might cry when he described the flavor of his ripe persimmons.  Apply lime and compost and call us in the morning.
  5. Amidst the personality conflicts, grabs for power and control and stress at work, I love and am thankful for my job.