It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas



A local weather forecaster reminded me that in a few days it will be winter. The predicted high in Zone 10 for the day is 80 degrees, and I have to ask myself: “This is Christmas?”

It’s a lot like the question most people ask whenever I tell them I’m spending the holidays in south Florida. “Does it even feel like Christmas there?” they wonder. “I don’t think I would enjoy Christmas down there. How can it even feel like Christmas?”

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A Gardening Life Remembered

Lee May April 15, 1941 - December 3, 2014

Lee May
April 15, 1941 – December 3, 2014

When I started this blog, the first piece of advice I received was to find other blogs that I admired, blogs that I thought would appeal to the readers I hoped to attract. After scrolling through blog after blog, I found one that stood out from the rest.

It was classic and classy, well-written, witty, and wise.

It was Lee May’s Gardening Life.

I left a comment immediately and added the site to my newly learned term: a blogroll. For some time, Lee May’s Gardening Life was the only blog listed on that roll.

It had been a long time since I had written. Prior to blogging and prior to my life as a school social worker, I had been a journalist — but that was a long ago chapter in my life. So when Lee — a much-respected journalist — replied that he liked my writing, he provided water to my young sprouting blog and to my soul.

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Repost: Lessons Learned From A 9/11 Survivor


I think it’s safe to say that we all feel the world is falling apart.  By now, we’ve been bombarded with news stories of crime and climate change, disrespect and disillusionment, violence and epidemics, extremism and fanaticism, terrorism and war.  And now we have to come to grips with beheadings and crucifixions.  Our 21st-century life has been turned back hundreds and hundreds of years.

At moments like this, I want to retreat into my garden.  I feel safe there.

The sad truth, though, is that the world has always been a crazy place.  Just look at the history that isn’t too far in the past.  The Holocaust.  JFK’s assassination.  And MLK.  And RFK.  Son of Sam.  AIDS.  Oklahoma City.  9-11.

Yet, it is during these times of evil that so many people rise to the challenge to remind us that there is goodness in the world.  

As we approach another September 11 anniversary, I would like to revisit a post that I wrote several years ago.  It speaks of tremendous sadness, inspiration, and, most importantly, hope.  Hang in there, everyone.

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A Box To Build A Dream On


A box arrived in the mail the other day — and this is the story of that box and all that it holds.

On Monday nights, I participate in a Twitter conversation called Garden Chat — a very large, hour-long cyber get-together with gardeners from all over. Usually someone hosts the chat, which means that person organizes a theme and related gardening questions. Those questions are tweeted and answered, and those answers are read and retweeted and favorited by all of the participants.

At the same time, there are smaller side conversations — sharing new flower and harvest photos, tweeting tips and words of encouragement, and, of course, laughing.

It’s not unusual for there to be a giveaway during these chats — simply leave a comment attached to the giveaway tweet and you’re entered.  At the end of the chat, a winner is randomly selected and announced.

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Repost: How Bagpipes Changed My Life

In addition to lack of seed starting, there is another consequence to my escaping the cold for health reasons: the loss of my marching through March with my piping and drumming brothers and sisters.  While the temperature here in South Florida comfortably rests in the low 80s, my mind and spirit are with my band, which who has marched in two to three parades each chilly weekend — so far.  This Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, they will parade up 5th Avenue in New York City — and for the first time in years, I will not.  Here’s a clip from a few years ago — that’s me front row center.

Watching it, I’m feeling a little green — with envy — that I can’t be there this year, and so I thought I would revisit a post which is as much a tribute to piping as it is to the band that took me in.

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Ice, Snow & A Bit Of Frost

Hydrangea In Ice

I owe all of you a great deal of thanks.  Your kind and supportive comments from the previous post about my health issues and having to leave my garden were appreciated in so many ways.  You and your words brought me great comfort. 

Near the end of that post, I wrote, “I’ve made another difficult decision — to take a very brief hiatus from posting as regularly as I have, to wait for those beams of light to be strong enough to burn through the fog, to get to Florida and figure out how a garden blogger blogs without a garden.

“And when all that happens, you will be the first to know, because inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of seeds.”

That inspiration came soon after your gifts of words arrived.  I was walking around the yard, tip-toeing through the areas of the garden that had re-appeared after a snowmelt and that’s when I noticed something.  There, just barely above the ground, under the oak tree, was another gift — the tiniest bit of green.

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One Year After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy

A year ago, I was posting about Sandy and sharing photos from my local community here on Long Island.  A year ago, I organized a three-day, school-wide bake sale and food drive for local communities.

For most people, a year has made a difference.  In my world, Nana’s tree (below), which was badly damaged in the storm, has been cut down and removed.  

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Summertime Sadness & Wonder

The hydrangea blooms are fading away.

Hydrangea blooms fading away.

I stepped outside this morning and I could see my breath.  Clearly, summer left the building — or at the very least, it left the garden.  Almost immediately, I began singing Lana Del Rey’s smash, “Summertime Sadness” — or, rather, just the chorus: “I’ve got that summertime, summertime sadness, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh.”

I’ve actually been a little melancholy over the past few days.  Maybe it was the 9/11 anniversary.  Maybe it’s the start of another school year.  And maybe it does have to do with the change in weather.  While the cooler weather signals the time to clean and store terra cotta pots, elephant ears, and canna — as well as myself — for the winter months, there is something else on my mind.

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Nana’s Tree, 1966 – 2013

Joe's Mom waters Nana's tree when it was a baby.

Joe’s Mom waters Nana’s tree when it was a baby.

Nana’s tree, a blue spruce, was brought down this past weekend after a life that was long and well-lived, a life that provided shade and shelter to family and countless birds and squirrels.

These were the words that started to come to mind as I watched the men of the cutting crew strategize how to remove something in less than an hour, something that took Nature nearly 50 years to grow, something that was selected by Joe’s grandmother when his family first moved to Long Island and which remained after Joe and I purchased the house.  I was reminded of my mother’s annual Thanksgiving comment: “It takes so long to prepare everything, but it’s over so quickly.”

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So That’s Where Baby Hydrangeas Come From!

Bee 4

I remember the day I first learned about the birds and the bees, which — surprise — really had nothing to do with birds and bees.

I was watching an afternoon rerun of “Marcus Welby, M.D.” with my mother, and the episode focused on a patient with an STD, only it was called VD at the time.  My father walked in at that moment and asked if I knew what that meant.

“Um, yeah?” I said, unsure if the question mark at the end of my response gave me an air of authority or uncertainty.

And then came my father’s response, “Let’s go for a drive.”  Uncertainty it was.

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