Casey's and Sloane's Blog
I have a great friend who knows more than a little bit about gardening and landscape design. Right after the first of the year, right after we had had very hot soup for lunch, I persuaded him to follow me to my house and give me advice on a very pressing issue. Well, it was pressing on me. Grand plans for the warmer parts of the year with no better time to contemplate them than the coldest and dreariest days of winter.
As we walked around my very small property, he asked many questions. Sprinkler head questions. “What grows here?” questions. “Who laid this?” questions. “When does this bloom?” questions. He wondered when we had done certain things. He never questioned our choices or our taste. When he spoke to me about my dogwood tree in the front yard, I answered, “A Mother’s Day gift from my son.” My favorite moment was when he asked about yet another winter-weary plant in one of our beds towards the back of our yard and I regaled him yet again with not only what the plant was but which grandparent had given it to me. And when. And why. I was brief, I hope.
He gave me The Look. You know The Look. It can take many forms, yet this one was saying to me silently, “Does everything have a story?” He knew the answer and was playing dumb just so I would respond to The Look. So I played along….
I thought of this again this morning when yet another person congratulated me on the graduation of our son from high school. The conversation rolled along, and before I knew it the question was “popped” again. This is the question that seems to escape people right after they ask where he will be attending college: “Are you going to sell the house?” It has become “The Second Question”.
It has puzzled, the fact that this has been such a frequently asked question this spring. Is it because we have only one child and his absence from our home will have us putting a sign in the yard from loneliness? Is it because we live in an older, historic, and larger home and therefore must be looking for the newer and the smaller?
My friend who gave me The Look on the coldest day this past winter already knows my answer. I’m not leaving the home I brought that bouncing baby boy to from the hospital. The memories live inside the house and outside as well. With the daylilies, a gift from my mom’s mom; the dogwood tree, a gift from my son; the surprise lilies, a gift from my mom’s dad; the bridal wreath bush, a gift from my dad’s parents. The list goes on and on.
And that’s before I regale anyone with what the days were like when each planting was made. They all live with me on the coldest and the warmest days.
p.s. The photo was taken this morning in my back yard. These daylilies were originally grown in the ditch near the entrance to my maternal great grandmother’s farm in Gasconade County, Missouri. They are majestic and stand almost five feet tall when they are blooming.
“Blink of an eye.”
“They grow so fast.”
“Take lots of pictures so you never forget.”
“Hold on. It’s a great ride.”
I have heard them all. From the day my son was born until and including today, when he graduates from high school in front of very proud parents and a loving family that sings his praises higher than should be allowed.
My advice to my sister, who has a child younger than mine, has been individual in its focus: “It all changes so fast.”
Last year, a full two or three days before portraits were due at school, I leaned upon a professional to capture for me a young man who would be leaving our protective hold sooner than I cared to accept. Both photographer and subject knew what they wanted and never butted heads. They let me have opinions – one of which left my friend, the photographer, with chigger bites that lasted for days – and a set of photos that I will treasure forever.
So, to my sister, I need to change my tune, or at least add to my mantra about change: ” Hold on tightly, and hire a professional.”
p.s. My greatest and forever thanks to Robbie Schraeder for being a photographer that captures the essence of a person, not just their image. It is a gift that cannot be undervalued.
I have never toured the White House in Washington, DC. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve never planned my trips to this greatest of our cities in advance enough to actually book a tour. I would love to see the public spaces of that building, but I have never had a desire to see the private spaces where our president and his family reside. I firmly believe they are private for a reason, and they don’t need the rest of us nosing around.
I live in an historic home in our center city. It is pushing 110 years old, yet it is not a masterpiece nor overly important architecturally. It is, however, a home. With people living in it. A dog. Plants. We host many events, but we seldom let guests up to the second and third floors. Many reasons: one being the rooms are not as majestic; two being that projects have been completed on the first floor for many years yet linger undone on the upper floors; and three being that these are our most private quarters. Our bedrooms and baths. Our studies, dressing rooms, and over-sized closets. Not as tidy as our lower floor, and loaded with our treasures, valuable and not.
Two times last week we let people climb the stairs, past the magnificent crown molding and quarter-sawn oak of the first floor, to land squarely in our lives. One night it was the staff from our business that came for a meal and tour, and one night was a close friend who needed a place to change clothes before we waltzed out together for another night on the town for charity.
For the first evening, I spent multiple minutes preparing our spaces upstairs, and on the second evening I did not. I do not know why. Both were intimate and benignly invasive. You never know what others will see in the rooms you live in. More importantly, what they will read into you in what they see about you and around you. Your art. Your books. Magazines. Lotion bottles.
I know that when I looked up from my bed last night and saw this sight before me, I was reminded that evenings with my son in our home bent over a book studying while typing endlessly on a keyboard are limited. I can actually count them on my two hands.
Our personal spaces are our respites, and I will miss my son crashing about in my private and quiet spaces on the upper floors of our home.
Just as I will miss doing the same in his.
p.s. More about my son and his impending departure for college here.
Two nights ago, in low light and with a drink in my hand, I was asked how my dad was. A good friend was wondering about the ongoing cancer that lives in my father. This friend can handle most of what I put out, and I blinked twice before answering.
In general, those in the Simmons tribe like opposition that is clearly defined and worthy of our full battle abilities. My father lives with a very picky strain of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is a bear to treat. His goal, our goal, for the last four years has been to gain remission so he can undergo a bone marrow transplant and possibly knock this cancer down a notch or two and then put it to bed. Three completed chemotherapy protocols have not done that – but one got him damned close. “Close, but no cigar,” as a grandfather used to say.
In the next few days, my father will enter another treatment that he and his doctor already know will not bring him remission, but it is the only option available to him at this time. It’s like we are all waiting for science to catch up to his need. His need, and the needs of probably thousands of others as well.
And so we will tussle with cancer. I am viewing this as not a full-fledged fight but a skirmish. We will help, and hold, and laugh, and cry. And wait. He will be sick again from the poisons he will ingest, and we will all dream of limited reactions on his part.
I asked my friend, with a voice that quietly betrayed my emotions: Who really wants an all-body rash?
Photo note: This is my dad, my stepmom, and my son on the night my son was crowned Homecoming King last fall. There will be more nights just like this in all our futures. Of this I am certain.
I received this care package in the mail last week.
A gift of creativity is always appreciated.
It was unexpected. It brought me joy. It reminded me why people love getting gifts of art and creativity. Even a co-owner of a store, like me, dedicated to the mission of sharing creativity with the world, needs a reminder once in a while. The happiness it is spreading is immeasurable.
I had re-posted on Facebook an article about a recent study that found that coloring is good for adults. You can read about it here at the Huffington Post. Julie Cates, an accomplished artist and friend, had responded. And, I believe, that was where the seed for this deeply appreciated gift was planted.
Since my original post I have come across another post about coloring books intended for adults. Again, it made me happy to know that coloring, this seemingly “for children only” hobby, has many benefits. You can find out about the newly published coloring book here, coloring book for adults.
So, it turns out coloring is good for people of all ages. And, I for one, will be coloring more often and well into my years. Join me.
Dakota had a dream. A wish, really. A desire to visit all 50 states “before I go to college.”
Those last words were spoken to us, his parents, when he was maybe five years old. To him, and to us, that deadline seemed forever away.
He has always loved maps. Even as a small child, he would hold them while strapped into his car seat and look them over. Occasionally the map was indeed upside down, but that only made the flash on my camera react faster.
We thought he might not continue with this wish. I mean, really, most children that age will tell you they want to be policemen and firefighters and veterinarians when they grow up. Few of them follow through on those adamantly delivered statements. Things change. They change.
But not our son. This wish to visit all the United States stayed with him. Our driving trips to Florida became missions to see Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia “on our way.”
Our son was insistent from the beginning that you could not count a state as “finished” just by driving through it. You had to do something real or see something real – a Confederate cemetery, the Tuskegee Airmen Museum, a Usonian town – and then you could chalk it up as completed.
So, state number fifty presented itself to us this year. North Dakota. The final spot on the map just a few months before he would be college bound. Sounded like a spring break trip made in heaven…by an only child with doting parents.
We loaded the car – with only two days provided for this journey to and fro – with pillows, water bottles, cameras, a mom, a dad, a kid, sweets, and a dear friend of mine. My friend and I met in junior high – not middle school! – and she has a desire to visit all the states as well. (North Dakota was #34 for her.) She shares a deep love of travel with Dakota, and they adore each other on multiple levels.
It was short, sweet and delightful. Too much food, too much driving, too much cold. But never enough friendship, laughter and smiles.
There can never be enough of those last three.
Note #1: All photos were taken in one day in two states. Many were in North Dakota and a few in that other Dakota.
Note #2: In an effort at full disclosure, state number forty-nine was Delaware and was mistakenly overlooked last year during the “East Coast Mop-Up Tour” with his grandfather. Dakota also visited Delware during this spring break, with his friend, Ryoko. Every member of our family has seen to it that Dakota had help – financially and transportation-wise – reaching this amazing goal. To my mom, her partner, my sister, my dad, my step-mom, and everyone else, I say thank you for making this amazing dream come true. Wow. What a lucky kid.
Note #3: The Grand Forks Herald – and the amazing Marilyn Hagerty – saw the magic in this trip. Our lunch with her was the the trip’s focus, the thing we “did” in that state so it could be checked off and counted as complete. She left us wanting to spend even more time with her. Read her words in the Herald here.
My first email received today was from my son’s pediatrician’s office. Today, on my son’s eighteenth birthday. And the subject line stated:
“You have been removed from Dakota’s Care Team.”
It made me laugh to my core. My husband was already on the highway to a client, my son on his way to school. I sat in my office at home and laughed out loud. The dog looked at me, then placed his head back down on the carpet.
The three sentence email went on to state things about “Dakota having reached the age of majority,” and “state regulations.” I’m sure all of that is true.
Removed from the Care Team? Not in my lifetime. I might not be able to access his health records online, but I will never stop caring. No combination of letters and numbers in password sequencing will keep me from remembering every little thing about him. Every fine blue vein on his baby eyelids, noticed best when he was sleeping in my arms. Every tear cried over the toddler ridicule of his favorite color. Every fitting for tiny eyeglasses. Every mole, scrape, and hairstyle.
My baby is eighteen years old today. My, how time does fly….
p.s. Dakota pushed this box of Coke around the floor for over an hour just a few months after turning one. We were preparing for a party, and he considered himself a huge help. The smile never stopped….
I have entered into an unhealthy relationship with a plant. Two plants, really. Both geraniums. Almost co-dependent, this relationship is. I provide water and shelter; they provide color and joy.
This photo was taken on Valentine’s Day. These blooms were not there on the 13th of February but were bright and cheerful when I came downstairs on the 14th. Full of love for me, and smiling in the weak sun.
I do love these plants. All summer long, they live on my deck and are more gorgeous every day. They get huge and bloom constantly. They are the two colors I love most in geraniums – red and hot pink. Both of these colors were grown by my maternal grandmother, and therefore I have placed a value on them higher than the 99-cent plants they grew from.
I do hate these plants when I bring them in every winter to the only window in the house that can hold them – the south-facing one in the kitchen. Our busiest room in the entire home. Already overfull with our active lives. I get to enjoy them, true. But I have never enjoyed house plants – in any variety – and I’ve tried to trick myself into thinking they are just “visiting for the winter,” not staying in the house permanently. True, again, but winter is long.
Just when I reach my winter peak of wanting them out of the house, they give me a show of color. I don’t talk to plants or listen to them if they are talking, but I know a plea for a few more months of patience when it is silently offered.
So they will stay.
p.s. I have written of geraniums before. Feel free to read more here and here.
This is a story about cookies. But first, I need to admit to feeling a little smug about brownies until cookies brought me back to Earth.
On Valentine’s Day, I admitted on Facebook that I liked Valentine’s Day and always have. Since long before boyfriends, a husband, or a son. My dad and mom both celebrated the day and included their children in the lovefest. Candy, flowers, small gifts. Tokens really. Nothing big.
In addition, my dad’s mother loved holidays with her whole heart, and, after she moved out of her last home and into a care facility, I found a box titled “non Xmas decorations” in a closet, written in her majestic cursive. I asked other family members cleaning out the house that day if they were interested in the contents. A resounding “no” echoed back to me.
I kept the box and opened it much later. Single and simple decorations were found for most holidays. Easter, St. Pat’s, and a touch of Halloween. She and my grandfather were farmers, and spending money on holiday decoration was not a high priority. Many of the decorations still held price tags from the Five & Dime store in their small town. One Thanksgiving turkey still says 29-cents on his belly when I set him out every November.
I have not been as good about decorating the house as I was when I was first married or as over-the-top as we used to decorate for the non-Christmas holidays when our son was little and growing up. He loved unpacking the small boxes of pumpkins, turkeys, plastic eggs, or hearts. He let me tell him stories about where things came from, and he had real ideas when he was five and six years old as to where things should be placed. Amazingly, they were all at his eye level – our waist height! – and precariously positioned for the dog and cats. After he toddled off to bed, I would move them and make a big deal the next morning about how his “helping” me had inspired me to move them up in the room(s).
This past Friday night, I realized I had never decorated the house for Valentine’s Day this year. I have three items left – from my peak of too many! – that carry provenance from my past and I truly adore. With those decorations still upstairs and packed away, I decided not to beat up on myself. I thought that baking would take my mind off guilt. So I headed to the kitchen.
Brownies are my forte. And what could possibly be cuter than brownies cut into hearts? And cut with cookie cutters that my grandmother gave me? And in two sizes! Genius and cute. I was on a roll….
My pride ran away with me when I placed the freshly cooled and cut brownies on a bright white ceramic tray in an arching circle. Cuteness incarnate held in place with plastic wrap! One for each member of our staff and a few extras for snacking. I arrived at work Saturday morning with a smile on my face, ready to meet the day’s shoppers on one of my favorite days with treats for the staff.
It was a good day. Happy. Much talk about gifts being given and to whom. I even had a visit from a friend that is a “Bah! Humbug!” about the day, and he left with a smile on his face and told me his love for me has forever changed his view of “Gee, I’m Still Single Day” (his words, not mine). I choose to believe him.
When I arrived home, I was greeted by the most amazing display of baked goods ever to enter our home on Valentine’s Day. Handmade by dear friends. Each heart decorated in a pink and white theme with the perfect icing. A single bird in the softest blue. Our names on individual cookies. Such talent with an unwavering grasp of beauty. Each unique. Personally delivered to our home by the chefs themselves. Crisp wrap with a bow and ribbon.
My brownies paled in comparison to this food art. I stared at them in wonder. Then I ate one and marveled again. Light, not too sweet, and delicious.
The artistry of my brownies paled in comparison to these cookies, but the love that made them was the same.
You could taste it.
p.s. No photos were made of the brownies. It’s better for all of us….