O Lord, Your infinite mind has designed an infinite number of beautiful things, but surely, peonies must near the top of your lovely list. OMG, thank You that while our politicians don’t always get it right, they were smart enough to name it Indiana’s state flower!
Whether wide open, singing to a glorious, sunny sky or pursing lip-petals in a demure pout, tulips are delightful harbingers of spring.
Only in others’ yards.
My tulips, the teenagers of the flower world, refuse to get out of bed. I sacrificed knees and back to lavish exotic foods on them. Yet, they only lift a limp leaf or two.
Bloom? Too much trouble. Besides, why should they be bound by my expectations?
Each spring, I waited again. Again.
“Hey,” I yelled, “you’re supposed to be perennials!”
I stumbled over a “Do Not Disturb” sign erected by the tulip that had drawn the short straw.
One greenhouse declared tulips will faithfully bloom every spring … if I relocate to the Turkish Himalayas foothills. The fussy lovelies crave their native habitat’s hot, dry summers and extreme winters. Dutch growers have devoted 400 years to discovering ways to imitate these conditions. They have learned, as Mary Beth Breckenridge in the Chicago Tribune once suggested, to “think like a bulb.”
With all due respect to the Netherlands, I’d rather retain IQ points, thank you very much.
Only once have my tulips bloomed more than one season. Even then, contrary red ones, planted to border pink tulips, bloomed two weeks early. They formed a lovely circle … around dirt.
At least, the tardy pink tulips created a clump of color. For two days. Then, strong winds blew them flat.
Still, hopelessly in love with gardeners’ photos, I again fertilized and hoed. On my knees, I planted more bulbs.
The next morning, I peered outside at my perfect flower bed … only to meet squirrels’ chittery scorn. My efforts had supplied a Golden Corral buffet for little thieves.
Something inside me snapped. I dashed outside, yelling and swinging a hoe like a Mr. McGregor samurai. “Hi-yah!”
The squirrels escaped unhurt, laughing.
Rush hour drivers zooming past also enjoyed the show.
Why did they laugh? Just because I still wore my nightgown …
Once, though, I outwitted the squirrels, planting bulbs in a different bed. The following spring, these bloomed in glorious display.
For two days. Then deer devoured every last one.
Will I ever tiptoe through my own tulips?
When I talk Hubby into moving to the Himalayas.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do your tulips bloom every year?
“Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.” —Unknown
In case you didn’t collide with card, candy, and teddy bear displays, I’ll inform you: Valentine’s Day was Monday. Think in terms of a major apology gift. Half-price chocolates save money, but will they impress your lady?
Perhaps I can suggest tips for future reference.
At all costs, avoid the “I-love-you-every-day-why-should-I-give-you-a-gift-now?” defense. Like the adage, “It doesn’t matter who wins or loses,” it contains elements of truth. But you’ll lose, big time. Unless you think sleeping on the couch — or driveway — is fun.
Fortunately, my husband figured this out. He’s come a long way since our first Valentine’s Day, when he gave me a history book. No, I’m not making that up.
After 47 years, though, he’s a master gift giver. Hubby should offer lessons on finding cards that make a wife’s heart sing. However, he faced a common February quandary: I adore chocolate, but I’m dieting. Should he give me only a card?
Some men bypass the obvious solution: flowers. Instead, they buy their ladies lingerie.
Seriously? When women are hating mirrors, are suffering from starvation, and are pushed around by skinny exercise gurus wearing Spandex?
Admittedly, it’s a cruel dilemma — only one of thousands women inflict on men.
Guys should blame marketing geniuses of the late 1800s and early 1900s who married chocolate and Valentine’s Day.
During the 1860s, beverage manufacturer Richard Cadbury discovered the answer to his own dilemma: how to use cocoa butter that remained after processing chocolate drinks. Before his descendants manufactured the eggs associated with his name, Cadbury marketed valentine candies in beautiful boxes he designed himself.
Milton Hershey reinforced the Valentine’s Day-chocolate connection when he began selling tear-dropped chocolate “kisses” named for smoochy sounds chocolate made during processing.
For a time, chocolate equaled milk chocolate. When I, a second grader, received my first Valentine’s Day chocolates from towheaded Paul Henry, I didn’t nitpick about milk chocolate, dark chocolate, bittersweet, or semisweet. Unlike modern connoisseurs, I didn’t debate whether white or ruby chocolate are true chocolate.
Question free candy? Stupid.
Speaking of stupidity, some gourmets have “diversified” chocolate. They’ve invented a chocolate éclair hot dog. Chocolate and black pepper goat cheese truffles. Even chocolate calamari soup.
I told my love, “While I crave both seafood and chocolate, please don’t get creative on me this Valentine’s Day, okay?”
“Since when have I been creative?”
“By the way,” Hubby continued, “why should I give you chocolates, when you’ve only given me cards?”
However, he, too, has been avoiding seconds at dinner. Toughening up with weights.
Should I give him the ultimate symbol of my love and concern for his health: broccoli dipped in dark chocolate?
Maybe just a card. …
Tune in February 14, 2023, to see if these old lovers learned anything during their chocolate chat.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What does Valentine’s Day look like at your house?
O Lord, nothing looked deader than the brown, shriveled seeds I planted last spring. But You breathed Your life into them, and now, a hundred colorful reminders of Your Resurrection dance for joy in the west wind. OMG, to think that You can do the same for us, if we let You. Alleluia!
On sultry summer days, do you sit on the porch — more likely, bask in air-conditioning — and ponder profound issues?
Skeptics might claim we’re procrastinating. We don’t want to mow or weed the garden for the 500th time. Or battle Japanese beetles that may as well own deeds to our rose beds.
No, I truly look for answers to my questions, including:
Unlike highway medians, why can’t our yards and gardens be declared prairie preservation areas?
Why would anyone invent platform flip-flops? A friend asks this question daily, as falling off her fashionable footwear put her in a walking boot.
My question: why would anyone buy them?
When temperatures sizzle, are you tempted to splat and zoom on a Slip ’N Slide®? (Me, neither.)
Do others feel embarrassed — and relieved — that their campers include air conditioners?
Why do summer mornings smell better every year?
Why do beach lovers strip down to strings — some wore pandemic masks bigger than their bathing suits — yet other bathers don more clothing than in January?
Why would anybody believe romaine should be grilled?
What summer food sometimes outranks (gasp!) ice cream? Though a lifetime addict, I believe on the hottest days, a chilled watermelon slice tastes even better. Besides, I can spit seeds at my spouse.
Why does my three-year-old grandson’s face, smeared with blueberries, appear adorable when my own toddlers’ gooey, blue kisses sent me running for my life — and a washcloth?
Tarry blacktop conjures teeth-gritting images of road construction. Endless balky traffic. Detours to Timbuktu. But does its fragrance generate positive memories for anyone else? Sweaty bike rides on country roads to a mom-and-pop store to buy icy, 10-cent bottles of cream soda? Or yakety cycling with teen friends to a bookmobile?
People are named June and August, but who’s named July?
Why do some summer outdoor wedding guests look ready for a Hollywood photo shoot, whereas other perspiring attendees — not me, you understand — look like they spent the afternoon in a dunk tank?
Which is best: lightning bugs, glowworms, or fireflies?
Why does the ice maker malfunction only when temperatures rise above 90?
Ditto for air conditioners. And freezers.
Which songs are hummed most during summer: Beach Boys’ hits? The ’50s classic, “A Summer Place”? Or “Summer Nights” from the musical, Grease?
While riding in the back of a pickup at 65 mph doesn’t carry its former appeal, do we children of yesteryear miss those wild, warm, nighttime breezes, the lavish, starry show above?
Thankfully, we don’t miss out on summer evening scents. Don’t they smell better every year?
Especially when neighbors mow grass. And nurture beautiful flowers.
All while I ponder these profound questions of summer.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What weighty quandaries fill your mind during summer?
Some preschoolers let weather spoil play-outside plans. But one warm, rainy spring day 60 years ago, my brother Ned and I begged to play outdoors. Mom, seeing no lightning — and desperate for peace — dressed us in bathing suits she’d sewed. Mine was the most beautiful suit in the world, with ruffles on the rear.
At the neighboring playground, we danced through God’s sprinkler system. Ned and I soared on swings, welcoming rain’s laughing pitter-patter. We experienced the joy of mud, chocolate-brownie-batter stuff we smeared on the merry-go-round and watched the rain scrub clean. We worried less about our own state. Mom almost locked us out.
Later, having sworn off mud baths, I still loved awakening to rain rhythms plunking on the roof. I sometimes avoided sibling anarchy with an early morning walk in the rain. At 10, I didn’t run outside in a homemade bathing suit with a ruffled butt. Instead, I ducked raindrops until I found an umbrella under the swing set, where my brothers had conducted parachute jumps.
I strolled along wet, black roads where iridescent oil jewels gleamed. Silence ruled the slumbering village’s lush lawns and rainbow flowers. I breathed newly washed air and listened to raindrops skittering across my umbrella. Sometimes I talked to God. Sometimes neither of us said anything. I counted it a major triumph to return before my family awoke. We had managed this secret rendezvous, the rain and I.
During young adulthood, love often turns to hate. I attended a college under a huge rain cloud with a permanent “on” switch. I spent a bundle on umbrellas because dastardly thieves stole the hundred I forgot in cafeterias.
Noah floods with 30,000 gloomy students wielding 30,000 umbrellas didn’t charm me like my childhood walks. Elevators, where we absorbed each other’s wet-dog fragrances, became danger zones. When the film, Singin’ in the Rain, was shown on campus, the student body flew to California and staged a sit-in at Gene Kelly’s house.
Now an (ahem!) mature adult, I’ve shed youthful habits. I don’t lose umbrellas in cafeterias because I am the cafeteria. Loading groceries into my car amid a deluge, I gnash my teeth and weep.
Yet even on this dreary April day, rain calls to me.
I probably won’t play in the mud. Nor will I wear a bathing suit with ruffles on the rear. But before the nearby school erupts at three, I grab my umbrella.
I know where deep puddles hide. Where wet tulips and daffodils will listen to quiet, spring songs in silence.
I know the perfect route for my rendezvous with the rain.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you love a rainy day?