Tag Archives: Weeds

Home Ownership: The American Dream?

For Hubby, me and our newborn daughter, our rental house proved a sanctuary.

Apartments worked for Hubby and me — until a percussion major moved upstairs. Then, upon expecting our first child, we learned our complex was a drug trafficking center.

We rented a house.

The only upstairs residents were squirrels. They pattered across the roof, but none sold drugs or played xylophones.

We possessed three whole bedrooms and a garage. No more scraping ice off car windows. Hubby and I began to succumb to the American Dream. …

However, the driveway didn’t shovel itself. Our house boasted a real yard — whose grass never stopped growing. Flowers I planted attracted real weeds. We purchased a shovel, mower and garden tools. Lawn chairs. And …

The infinite to-buy list should have warned us about home ownership.

But tired of paying rent, I longed to choose the colors of walls and carpet. Bang nails to hang pictures without asking permission.

Our younger daughter welcomed her new brother to the little ranch we built. Thank goodness the water and sewer system had been connected!

So, we built a little ranch in a new addition … where roads hadn’t been completed. Also, water and sewage hadn’t yet been connected to the town’s system. During that inflationary era, the special 12 percent mortgage seemed cheap, compared to an earlier 21.5 percent prime rate.

We brought two newborns to that ranch. Mysterious stains marred my carefully chosen colors. I spent years watering grass and breastfeeding babies. Neither was ever satisfied. I also discovered I wasn’t handy. If I banged a nail into one wall, a gaping hole appeared in the opposite one.

The American Dream?

Our home for 24 years.
Before we knew it, the toddler had a prom date.

One other house we owned ate water heaters and softeners. Another featured a pillow-soft porch roof, as well as a toilet that randomly ran over and soaked anyone playing Ping-Pong in the basement.

We occasionally considered living in a grass hut in Bongo Bongo.

Still, Hubby and I have called all three houses “home.”

Home, where our babies took first, shaky steps. Where they learned to watch for traffic as they walked to school. Home, where we took prom and graduation pictures. Home, where they and their children now come for holidays.

Home is the only place where Hubby and I can put feet on the furniture. Where we can blow up and make up. Bake brownies, eating them all without anyone judging.

Image by Hans from Pixabay.

Our American Dream is no HGTV superstar, but at this address, we can be us.

At home.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What home-owning adventures have you experienced?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Don’t Tell TruGreen

O Lord, You know that Hubby and I disagree on which describes our lawn best. He says, Prairie Preservation Plot. I say, Best Bee-Feeder on the Block. OMG, Creator of all green things, will You settle this? What do You think?

Classic Post: Dandelion Treasure

This post first appeared on March 16, 2016.

As I walk past our nearby elementary school, I search for the first fuzzy yellow dandelions. Although I want them out of my yard, deep in my grown-up heart, I still like them.

As a six-year-old, I heard God sprinkled dandelions on lawns like manna. Sometimes, He turned them to gold during the night. The financial possibilities made it worth a try.

The gold coin story did not pan out, but I still welcomed dandelions. Softer than my baby brother’s hair, they dotted the gray-brown Indiana landscape, reminding me better than any catechism that God loves color.

I showered my mother with bouquets. She never turned them down.

One evening Mama surprised my siblings and me. We would pick dandelions for supper! I did not realize they were good to eat. Or that our old refrigerator was empty. Mama acted as if we were going on a picnic.

“These look good.” She bent and nipped off leaves.

Grown-ups rarely made sense. “Aren’t we going to eat the flowers?”

“No. Some people make wine with them, but we’re eating just the greens.”

“Can’t we make wine?”

Mama’s eyebrows rose. “Probably not a good idea.”

My pastor father’s congregation might not take kindly to a bootleg wine-making operation in the church basement.

My seven-year-old brother grabbed the big greens first.

“Thank you.” Mama shook dirt from our offerings. “But little ones are best.”

Ha! My spindly greens topped his!

I asked, “What do cooked dandelions taste like?”

“Spinach.”

I’d never eaten spinach. But on TV, Popeye’s spinach helped him clobber the bad guys!

Maybe dandelions possessed the same magic. I insisted on a big bowl for supper. Muscles would pop out on my skinny arms. I would teach Kevin, the mouthy kid across the alley, some manners!

I took my first bite.

Maybe we should have made wine.

Though I gulped several spoonfuls, I didn’t hear Popeye’s happy music. My arms still looked like plucked chicken wings. Maybe if the dandelions had come from a can instead of the churchyard, the spell might have worked.

Decades later, dandelion greens, no longer a dubious alternative to going hungry, are chopped, pickled and curried in hundreds of international recipes.

I take home the fresh, green pile I’ve gathered. When I find the right recipe, I’ll dine on four-star fare for lunch. My personal skeptic insists I’ll be eating weeds. Ignoring her, I search the Internet for recipes.

Who knows? Chopped in my repent-after-the-holidays salad, dandelions might make me as skinny as Olive Oyl.

Fat chance.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you have a favorite dandelion recipe?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Glad You Like Them Tall, Lord

O Lord, thank You for zinnias, which I plant every year because they add flower fireworks to my yard; rarely have to be fed or watered; and finally, OMG, thank You for making them tall enough to hide my almost-September garden from the neighbors.

Queen Anne’s Lace: A Cure for Summer Fever

Many people suffer from cabin fever during winter, when slippery sidewalks keep them inside. Instead, I suffer from summer fever. When sizzling sidewalks threaten to fry me, I hibernate inside.

Soon, though, the six-year-old in me has to play outdoors. One evening, when sidewalks and temperatures had cooled to bearable, I considered two summer fever cures: a Moose Tracks sundae or a wildflower bouquet.

Because stern bathroom scales had issued a nasty final warning, the noncaloric remedy won. Too early for fireflies, but also too early for a mosquito assault — I hoped, since I’d neglected using stinky repellent — I headed for a nearby field.

Reaching the pasture, I forgot about insects. A blizzard had arrived in summer! Drifts of Queen Anne’s lace, like thousands of giant snowflakes, covered the meadow.

I felt cooler already.

A poem by Mary Leslie Newton lilted through my mind: “Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has washed her lace/ (She chose a summer’s day) …”

No teacher had assigned the poem. I’d memorized it as a fourth grader simply because I loved it.

A skinny little girl in baggy shorts, I explored sweltering, but magical, Indiana meadows with an enchanting lady wearing a crown. Queen Anne didn’t sweat as she gathered her exquisite laces dried in pasture grasses, laces that, according to legend, had won the tatting competition she’d initiated with her ladies-in-waiting.

As a grown-up, though, I made the mistake of researching Queen Anne’s lace online. Gasp! Some states included it on “noxious weed” lists.

Insult Queen Anne? How dare they!

Instead of the aristocratic name, they called it “wild carrot” and “bird’s nest” — even “chigger weed”!

Now, I not only sweated, I itched.

Queen Anne’s lace also resembled young hogweed, a plant that made poison ivy seem like a botanical best buddy. My favorite wildflower also resembled hemlock, the poison that killed Socrates.

Not the kind of magic I liked.

Not a cure for summer fever.

Too late, I examined my “snowflake’” stems.

Whew! No purple dots that identify both hemlock and hogweed.

The hairy stems of genuine Queen Anne’s lace didn’t reflect her elegance, but they reassured me. I could return to my fairy-tale world without a qualm — occasionally good for a grown-up. Back to the magic of Queen Anne, who never sweat or itched. Back to picking snowflakes that wouldn’t melt when I arranged them in a crystal vase, admiring the wintry effect against a blue wall.

Returning with my bouquet, I mused that Queen Anne’s cure for summer fever — imagination — had worked well.

Did the noncaloric remedy top the ice cream cure?

Um … kid or adult, I’d have to plead the Fifth.

Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your cure for summer fever?

No Garden of Eden

After writing a novel, I emerged from my cave, craving ice cream, conversation and sunlight. A Moose Tracks sundae equaled ice cream therapy. Hubby, waiting for a coherent word from me, took grunts as a portent of better things.

I drank in sunlight. Summer morning air. Green, living things.

Unfortunately, most were weeds. Thousands of Klingon sticker weeds had conquered garden and flower beds.

A flabby author’s perfect therapy: a down-and-dirty battle to rescue oppressed plants. To arms, garden warrior!

I donned grubby jeans, T-shirt, baseball cap and tennis shoes, all of which remembered the turn of the millennium.

Hubby: “No PJs? You’re wearing real clothes?”

For him, it was a long novel.

We bathed in sunscreen as if with war paint, then took up weapons: hoe, rake, hand spade — and cushy kneeling pad.

The sticker weeds jeered at my weak knees. Their lackeys — purslane, marestail, purple deadnettle and, of course, dandelions — joined in. (I researched weed names on a Purdue website. Battle Rule #1: know your enemies.) But I didn’t look up Klingon sticker weeds. I knew dangerous aliens when I saw them.

Weed phasers would have been nice additions to our weaponry cache. But Hubby struck vicious blows, hoeing squash and cucumbers. I attacked beleaguered tomato plants’ foes.

Tanned cyclists zoomed past. Hubby eyed them longingly, but continued valiant efforts. Ponytailed runners wearing designer attire and perfect makeup stared as if they hoped what I had wasn’t catching.

Whew! After a morning-long battle, we showered, wolfed sandwiches and Hubby went to work.

I peered out the back door, wanting to savor the view of our perfect garden again.

My jaw dropped.

An overloaded mulberry tree branch had dropped like a bomb, bending tomato plant cages. Smaller branches, leaves and mashed berries smothered veggie rows.

The mulberry tree was in cahoots with Klingon sticker weeds!

Such perfect timing. The moment Hubby left the driveway, the tree had unleashed its barrage.

I yanked at the big branch. It barely budged.

“You think you’ve won, Klingon-sticker-weed lover? Well, you’ve got another thing coming.”

A giant swoosh of anger can fuel a woman. Armed with hedge trimmers, saws and my husband’s old Boy Scout hatchet, I reduced my enemy to sawdust. Well, not exactly. But by afternoon’s end, I’d removed most of the mess.

Superwoman still couldn’t move the big branch. When Hubby returned, he sawed it into sections and hauled them out.

Once again, I savored the sight of tidy rows of vegetables.

Ah, the sunset. The fragrant summer evening. Green things that were legal.

A tired writer’s perfect therapy.

Exactly what she needed to send her back to her laptop forever!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does gardening relax you or wipe you out?