flower garden

Summer Days

Tis summer and it's difficult to focus on work, on writing. Lawn work calls, the flower garden calls, and there are chats with the neighbors, and driving to see Mom and help her with some yard work.

My back yard and deck are looking pretty good! 

My back yard and deck are looking pretty good! 

Bird Feeding Tasks

Mom loves to feed the birds so my task consisted of potting her flowers while she refilled the bird feeders!

What birds flock to her home? Sparrows, robins, red-winged black birds, and grackles are common birds in our area as are goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, cardinals, and mourning doves. She also has woodpeckers-either downies or yellow bellied sapsuckers and nuthatches. Usually there's also a jenny wren, in one of the little birdhouses attached to the shed.  

Yesterday, though, something a bit different sat on the finch feeder. A couple of birds with lots of red on their bellies and black or dark gray on their backside. Very territorial. It's not a tanager. It's not a bluebird.  I need to search more.  

Writing and Worksheeting

The writing? My focus there has been on worksheeting, layering in, and building up my story. 

When I feel stuck or it seems like the story needs something more, then I create worksheets to help me sort through the logistics. A novel can be so unwieldy and it's helpful to see all the birds of a habitat on one page (ha! see what I did there). 

Fiction University

Most recently, I came across Fiction University's guest column titled Four Pillars by Jeff Seymour. It's rather amazing how blogs can essentially say the same things but the examples used in one work better than examples used in the other. 

I have known for a awhile now, that to have a successful story, we need a plot. Essentially answering the questions:

  1. what does our main character want?
  2. what or who is stopping her or him from getting it?
  3. what is s/he doing about it?

I've seen variations on these questions and examples listed on many blogs geared towards writers of fiction. I've studied it. Tried to wrap my head around it. 

Then I see this blog on Fiction University. Seymour lists four pillars and gives examples from Pride & Prejudice and from Star Wars:

  1. What does the main character value?
  2. What does the main character want?
  3. What's in the main character's way?
  4. What is the main character doing about it?

I've seen these questions and examples before, somewhere, but for some reason my brain and the words used in his column brought it all together for me.

Beautiful. So I'm off and running! It's a Saturday. With rain predicted.

Time to work on the story!    


How does my flower garden grow?

It's amazing how much can happen in one week!  Here are the rhododendron and daffodils, two weeks later. My short irises are now blooming. The bare stems to their left were the yellow tulips (and one red) that have come and gone already. I see my short peony has a couple of deep pink buds ready to bloom. And the other tall bushes are peonies. The three silvery green globes are autumn joy sedum. 



Here's the other half of that L-shaped garden. My tall lavender irises are just starting to bloom. The low purple flowering plant to their left is, I believe, hardy geranium or bloody cranesbill. They spread like crazy.  I've started a front flower garden and they will be going into there too. 


And finally....no. Not my garden. But my neighbor's beautiful azalea bush. 


A Time to Learn and A Time to Grow

I have rearranged my website. It used to be this blog was my homepage. Until a friend who had visited my blog said she did not know I had written a book. 

So now my book is my homepage. The next page is about my other writings. We shall see if anyone visits this blog page anymore. 

Speaking of changes...I am excited about the weather. Spring is here! I just hope summer does not come at us in a rush.  We just had a snowstorm two weeks ago and now, all of a sudden, the grass is greening and the daffodils are blooming. 

This is a Scilla siberica or Siberian squill.


It's all I have, just this one poor wee bulb!  I'm not sure how to get it to multiply but I've only been here for three springs. 

The daffodils we planted are growing profusely in the corner garden. Not so well next to the house on the south side.  Too much sun? Too unsheltered? The wind whips around the corner on that side of the house in the winter so it's hard to keep leaf coverage over the dirt and when we get a huge snowfall as we did two weeks ago, the daffodil shoots take a beating. 

That's what's growing in my garden. How does your garden grow?

Focus. Goal. Plan.

I'm new to my house and for the past couple of summers I've taken pictures of my gardens so I can see the changes and feel like I've accomplished something. 

Year 1: The orange  tiger lilie s after they had bloomed--late summer. A bit weedy. And the harebells were falling into the grass. 

Year 1: The orange tiger lilies after they had bloomed--late summer. A bit weedy. And the harebells were falling into the grass. 

Year 2:  Ahhh! Weed free. And tidy! You can tell it's May. I left the lilies and harebells and added bee balm. 

Year 3:  Red bee balm and purple harebells in July. The harebells are restrained with a wire tomato cage to keep them from getting wild and tipping into the lawn. 

Year 3:  Red bee balm and purple harebells in July. The harebells are restrained with a wire tomato cage to keep them from getting wild and tipping into the lawn. 

I found it so interesting to see the different looking wall behind the flowers. I have not painted it. But it faces the east and I took the bottom picture in the morning.

Did I have a grand plan for this little garden? Outside of tidying it up and figuring out what colors I wanted, I did not have a particular grand plan. But now I see that bumble bees love to crawl inside the harebells and ruby-throated hummingbirds sip at the bee balm.

Having been out of flower gardening for awhile, I had forgotten about these beautiful side effects (and in the case of the bees, the potential hazard!) 

Is this garden done evolving? For the near future, yes. I've other areas of the yard and other gardens to put my primary focus on now and I have added inspiration and impetus! 

An analogy to being storytellers? In writing, our voice, the character point-of-view and the setting color the story. With a specific end in mind, there are small steps, small plans to support the plot movement towards that ending. And being absorbed in the story we wish to tell is just as thrilling as working with a flower garden.

Living Values

Minimalism, simplicity, green-living, frugality, self-care...all mix and meander together in a beautiful harmonious mishmash but at other times conflict stridently.

Nothing like spring or Easter, and having lived through the recent death of a significant loved one, to get a person philosophizing.

What is our greatest yearning in life? Isn't it a longing for connection, a longing to be authentic to who we are called to be.

Faith has always played an understated role in my life, a bedrock for the values I prioritize in my life. I have always connected spirituality with living simply, with living as lightly on earth as I can. No, I've not  always been successful. But, I've tried.

As a young adult, I volunteered and shopped in the local Food Coop. I wanted to make a difference, to place my money where my values were.

As a single parent, I adopted a frugal lifestyle based on the books, Your Money or Your Life and The Tightwad Gazette. Very 1990s. At that time, I pastored a small church in a small village (no clothing stores, eventually no grocery store) during that time and I drove 30 minutes to get to the nearest town with a hospital. I did not shop often and when I did, I was usually in a rush. So I did not buy into the consumer culture that accumulating things would make me happy. 

But living frugally and living greenly did not always go hand-in-hand. Purchasing frugally meant buying the cheapest, usually a box store. Living greenly or sustainably meant purchasing for long-lasting quality. Expensive. No easy answers in my desire to let my money show my values. My lifestyle values required me to think and decide and live with the consequences. 

Today, the language has shifted yet again. Bloggers speak of living a minimal lifestyle such as No Sidebar and Project 333

As millennialists move from a culture of accumulating fine and beautiful THINGS into a culture of acquiring fine and beautiful EXPERIENCES, I get caught between my parents' "but we have these objects to pass on that tell our history" and my children's "no, we don't want or need anymore stuff."  History is important but not necessarily by owning and acquiring artifacts. 

What do you value? And, perhaps more importantly, are you able to earn enough money that you can support the values you have that you'd like to see continued into the next generation? 

As a new homeowner who is single and works part-time, I make choices. Getting the basics of my household in order (why are there so many water issues with this house?) is  more of a priority than having stylish clothing or more jewelry. Being a writer is more important than having a full-time job (hm....but it would be nice to not live quite so close to the edge.)

Today? The sun is shining. My daffodils are blooming. And there is yard work to be done which I am quite happy to do. Today.   


Where does summer go? Here we are now in the midst of sweet corn, cucumbers, and a gazillion tomatoes and zucchini. Yum. The hot days inspire me to eat bean dip, texas caviar, ice cream, and lots of watermelon and canteloupe. Yum. As well as sweet tea. Let's not forget the sweet tea.  

And what's blooming in my garden on this first day of August. Russian lilies, phlox, and some stray sunflowers. 


And that big vine? I was so hoping for a volunteer squash. But, it's pumpkin. Oh well, if anyone needs to carve some jack o'lanterns, come on over to my yard in October to grab a freebee!  

More May flowers

It's been a busy weekend between church and writing on the novel.  And today is a beautiful sunshiny day to enjoy the outdoor flowers.  Our Sensation Lilacs are blooming. Yes, I have a bouquet sitting in front of me right now. And we bought 2 Beauty of Moscow lilacs to plant on the south side of the house to give us shade and some privacy from the busy corner near us. 

Here is one of my peony bushes. It's very short stemmed. 

And here is my neighbor's beautiful azalea. I've not seen one in our area before but it's gorgeous.

May flowers

April Showers bring May flowers 

Rhododendron, daffodils, and the tiny grape hyacinths

Rhododendron, daffodils, and the tiny grape hyacinths

What lovely surprises for this first spring in my new home. When I moved in last August, the first outdoor task I tackled was finding that rhododendron bush. It had been taken over by a deadly nightshade vine. I also had nightshade climbing around in my lilac bushes.

This little garden was full of grass and quack grass but I didn't have time to tackle it until  November which happened to be an extraordinary warm month in 2015. I worked on it with a shovel, trying to have some care with the bulbs I found and planting them in clusters. However, white with yellow star-shaped crocuses are living within my peonies so obviously I wasn't totally successful but it's all lovely.

The daffodils were a housewarming gift from a friend. As they popped up, they reminded me that I hadn't seen her for a couple of months and she only lives 1.5 hours away from me. So we met last week to explore a city located between us: for lunch, a walk on a bike trail, and some sit-down serious conversations along a river and continued in a local coffee/tea/chocolate shop.

While on the bike trail we saw white trilliums, marsh marigold and...is there such a thing as crocuses that grow wild? That picture is exactly what they look like, with the dark pinstripe within their tiny petals. 

Enjoy this first week of May and breathe!