Not Just A Garden Hat – It’s So Much More

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Last Sunday Grace surprised me with a much-needed, practical gift for Mother’s Day – a garden hat! Now Grace typically will buy or make me something every year for Mother’s Day, but this particular gift truly touched me.

I spend a lot of time in the spring and throughout the summer and fall working in the garden.  Most of this time is spent alone and usually I try to do the work when no one else is around.  I like the solitude, but also I don’t want the gardening to take away from my time with the family.

Gardening is “my” thing.  I hate to ask for help or assign chores in the garden because this is something I wanted — not Hubby, not the kids, just me.  They do reap the rewards from the garden, but still, they would probably be just as happy if I were to buy what I grow at the Farmer’s Market.  Because of this, I try to keep my gardening to myself.

On occasion I am forced to recruit a bit of help.  Perhaps there are bags of mulch that I just can’t lift or maybe I need help spreading a tarp to cover seedlings, and then the troops will come to my aid. Other than when absolutely necessary though, the family is kept in the dark about how much time and effort goes into the garden — or so I thought.

For all the gardening I do and all the time I spend out in the garden, I have to plan my time out there very carefully. Being allergic to the sun, intolerant of the heat, and a sufferer of sinus issues there are only certain times of the day I can work in the various areas the gardens are set up in.

Mornings have to be spent on the west side of the house in the tomato gardens where the sun stays hidden behind the house until about noon. Early afternoon can be spent on the patio when the sun slips behind the house and I can work on the potter’s bench and with the plants in pots outlining the patio. Late afternoon the sun slips behind the house and the east side is shaded so I can work where the cucumbers, peppers, peas, and spinach are planted.

The one area though that has sun all day is the main garden at the back of the yard.  Unless I get out there before 6:30 in the morning, which can be done but typically isn’t, I am forced to work in the sun.  In order to do this, no matter the temperature outside, I wear long pants, long sleeves, and dark sunglasses.  Still, with all this covering, my neck and face still get sunburned and I end up feeling sick after only 30 or so minutes out there.

I’ve tried wearing hats while working, but they either blow off or just shade my forehead a bit.  They were more cumbersome and tedious than they were worth.

Mother’s Day morning Grace ran down the stairs with a bag in hand, excited for me to open my present from her first.  I couldn’t image what she’d gotten me in such a large bag.  When I tore through the paper I found a wonderful new garden hat.

This hat has everything a gardener could want.  It is big so it will cover not only my head but will shade my entire face and neck.  It is floppy so the rim can be brought down even farther to shade my eyes in the brightest sun.  It is light and airy so my head doesn’t get hot and sweaty.  And best of all, it has a strap!  No blowing off in the wind for this baby!

I couldn’t believe it.  For all the effort I put into keeping my gardening to myself so it doesn’t intrude on the family or become a thorn in their side, Grace still managed to see I was struggling to work in the back garden without getting sick. She saw that gardening was something important to me and not something I would let a little sun poisoning or heat stroke stop me from doing, and found the one thing that would help make it possible for me to work even on the sunniest of days.

It amazes me what a difference something as simple as a hat can make — and I’m not talking gardening here. I know   my family loves me and appreciates what I do, but it’s thoughtful little things they do to remind me they are paying attention to what I do that touches my heart.  Grace showed me with her gift that she truly KNOWS me and UNDERSTANDS what is important to me.  I’m not just the person responsible for making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning house, walking the dog, or being here for the families beckon and call. She sees what I do, even when I try to keep it from her, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Careful What You Wish For — Driving Independence

For 18 glorious years I enjoyed the title of “chauffeur” for my daughter Grace.  Up until her 18th birthday, she really had no interest in learning to drive or getting behind the wheel.  Some of this might have been because Hubby and I instilled in her how expensive it was for insurance and driver’s training, but for the most part, she never even thought about it.  Surprisingly, many of her friends too did not jump at the chance to begin driving at 16.  Two out of three of her friends also waited until they turned 18.

That being said, Grace was chomping at the bit on her 18th birthday to get out and get her driver’s permit.  She took the entire day off work so we could be at the Secretary of State’s office as soon as they opened, and then she was off and running practicing her driving every chance she got.

Upon leaving the Secretary of State’s office June 3, 2014, Grace confidently proclaimed she’d be returning in 30 days to get her license.  Well, 30 days came and went, as did 60, and then 90.  What ever happened to 30 days?  Well, let’s just say that Grace’s idea of good driving and mine were somewhat different.  At 90 days when she went through three red lights in one week, I’d pretty much given up on her ever getting her license.  This meant Hubby had to get involved.

Until that point Hubby had driven with her probably twice.  The first time being the day she got her permit and the second time being when she needed to be dropped off at work and asked to drive there.  Hubby pretty much didn’t like having to get out of the car to switch spots and let’s be honest, he just is not the most patient of people.  Thus, the role of driving instructor fell to me.

At 90 days however, I gave up.  Obviously driving instructor was just not a role that I was cut out for.  I sent Hubby out with her and told him not to return until she was ready to take her driving test.  Of course this didn’t happen overnight, in fact not in the next 30 days, but by the end of October between Hubby and I, we got Grace to a point that we felt fairly comfortable she would be safe, as would the other drivers on the road. The end of October Grace passed her road test and got her driver’s license and immediately wanted out of the house and out on the road.

This has been a transition that I have truly enjoyed.  I thought I was going to miss being “chauffeur” after all, Grace and I spent many hours together in the car sharing stories, singing along to the radio, dancing in our seats, and doing some serious bonding.  I was afraid that her independence would mean a drifting apart between us.  Not at all!  In fact, for me this has been very liberating, things couldn’t be better.

Grace has the car practically every day during the week to go to work in the mornings and then to school in the evenings.  This leaves me home-bound, which is a welcome change from the constant running around I had to endure before.  I love it.  I’m a homebody anyway, but being able to legitimize being home-bound is great!

Grace on the other hand…well, let’s just say the thrill of driving has lost it’s luster.  Every morning as she opens the garage and heads out to the car, she complains about how cold the seats are in the morning.  Every afternoon as she is heading out to the car to leave for school she complains about not wanting to have to walk through the parking lot to get to class.  And every time I send her out to fill the gas tank, as she is the one using the gas, she complains about how cold it is outside.

WOW!  Funny how she never complained when I went out to the car in the morning and started it a little early, flipping on the seat warmers, so we wouldn’t have to drive to her work in the cold.  Amazing how she never gave it a second thought about how nice it was to be dropped off at the door for her college classes, and let’s not forget about not having to find a parking spot.  And isn’t it strange that all those years I got out of the car to fill the car with gas and Grace just sat in the passenger seat texting her friends, the cold outside was not an issue.

Such is life!

Truthfully, I do miss the bonding we used to do when I was driving her around, but as with all relationships, this mother/daughter relationship had to evolve.  Now we bond when she comes home and complains about work, school, traffic, parking, or all the crazy drivers out on the road and I get to sit back and marvel at it all.

Independence is good.  I’m sure Grace wouldn’t trade her new found independence, but it’s nice to see her finally appreciating what she no longer has — although if you ask her, things are much harder for her than anyone else — ever, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.  (Oh to be 18 and know everything again — NOT!)

Holiday Break Farewell at the Dessert Oasis

Today was the last day of Grace’s holiday break from work and school. Tomorrow she returns to work and next week she starts back at college.

It has been a nice couple of weeks having her home more, spending time doing some of the things we haven’t had time to do, and enjoying just having her here in the house.  Most of the time I don’t see Zeb or Grace when they are home from work or school, but I know they are here.  Knowing they are in their rooms, close by, is a comfort I will miss when they are gone.  I know that this time is fleeting, and making the most of it is one of the most important things in my life.

To make the most of this last day together, Grace invited me to go with her to a cafe’ out in Rochester, Michigan. Rochester has a downtown area that runs about three blocks consisting of small, independently owned unique businesses.  I guess I’d have to say it is rather a yuppie area, not someplace I typically frequent, but definitely someplace very fun to visit.

Being that the weather was a bitter 7 degrees this morning when we ventured out, we knew that walking Main Street was not going to happen.  Instead, we planned a relaxing morning at The Dessert Oasis and then lunch.

The Dessert Oasis is one of those cafe’s like you’d see on television.  The walls were brick, the floors were hardwood, the ceiling was lined with track lighting and drop down lanterns, the room was long and narrow, filled to the brim with tables, couches, and chairs, and filled with the smell of fresh coffee.  It was quaint and welcoming, absolutely perfect for sitting around and chatting.

We ordered latte’s and chocolate muffins and made ourselves comfortable on a couple of couches.  Our order was delivered to us, freshly made and steaming.

Caramel Latte on the left; Cinnamon Latte on the right.

Caramel Latte on the left; Cinnamon Latte on the right.

The latte’s were wonderful, but the time we spent together was even better.  Being invited to share Grace’s last day of vacation with her made this one of the absolute highlights of the entire holiday season.  She is 18, driving, has a boyfriend, works full-time, goes to school full-time, and yet made time for her dear old ma, and for this I am — Ever So Simply Grateful.

Painting My Nails, Touching My Heart

An evening of facials, pedicures, manicures, and girl talk.  Time with Grace is always at the top of my list of “Best ways to spend an evening.”

Grace has been working on nail art for several years and I am always happy when she offers to do mine.  Although they will no doubt only last at most a day, with all the cooking, canning, and cleaning on the agenda for tomorrow, it is wonderful to feel exotic and pretty even for a little while.

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These evening with Grace are limited, I know, and they are even more special as she gets older.  My little girl is growing up so fast but tonight she turned off her phone, told her friends she was busy, and spent the night with me, and for this I am so much more than — Simply Grateful.

Strawberry Pick Me Up

It amazes me how little time I actually get to spend with Grace since she began working in February. She had a summer job last year, but having a job that requires her to be gone from home between 20 and 30 hours a week, plus working two evenings, leaves us very little bonding time. I knew I missed her, but not how much until we went strawberry picking yesterday morning.

Grace had to be at work by 11:30. The orchard where we were going opened at 8:00. It was going to take us 30 minutes to get there. Does this sound like one of those story problems from Algebra II or what?

I got out of bed at 6:00 and got ready. Grace got up at 6:30. I told her she could sleep until 7:00, but she was anxious to spend  time with me. Not as excited as I was. I made us a fresh pot of coffee, we filled our cups, and were on our way to the orchard by 7:15. I wanted to be sure to be there when they opened, giving us the most possible time to pick before we needed to head back.

The weather was perfect. 62° and sunny, with a light breeze. There was very little traffic on our side of the road, as all the cars were heading the way were coming from. Grace was in a good mood and we were both ready for some heavy-duty picking.

At 7:45 we arrived at Blake’s Orchard and there was a car at the entrance picking up flats. They were already open! I pulled in behind him and asked for three flats. Following the signs to the back of the orchard, we found row after row of strawberries for the picking. The car in front of us was the only other person there.

 

Strawberries as far as the eye can see.

Strawberries as far as the eye can see.

Looks like it's going to be an easy pick.

Looks like it’s going to be an easy pick.

With flats in hand and towels to kneel on we headed out into the field. Three or four rows in Grace started picking. Taking the row next to her, I put my towel down and the competition commenced. Somehow Grace got it in her head that she was going to pick more than me and find the biggest and reddest berry. Silly girl! I have years of experience on my side — she insisted she had youth on her side.

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For an hour and a half we picked, talked, caught up, laughed, teased, and enjoyed. All the while Grace kept telling me, “I wish I didn’t have to go to work, then we could spend all day together.” Music to my ears. How I wish she didn’t have to go to work either. Still, we did have the morning.

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After all three flats were full and I had picked the largest strawberry and Grace had picked the reddest, we headed back to the entrance to see what the damage was. We’d picked 35 pounds. At $1.65 a pound — math again! — you get the picture. We paid for the berries then headed into the store for fresh donuts to eat with our lukewarm coffee. You’d have thought the coffee would have been cold, but the car was pretty warm with the sun beating down on it.

I so love going to the stores at orchards. Although it is very early in the season, there are always hot fresh donuts, fresh pressed cider, and I even found fresh picked rhubarb. Perfect. Now I had everything I needed for strawberry-rhubarb pie and jam, plus any other recipes I could find to try with rhubarb.

Grace bought the donuts and we enjoyed a breakfast picnic under the outside tent at a picnic table. Nothing like hot donuts, lukewarm coffee, and my daughter’s undivided attention and company for an entire morning.

On our way home we stopped off at an estate sale (nothing of interest there), picked up a couple more cases of canning jars that were BOGO 50% off, and enjoyed the drive with the windows down and the country air blowing through the hair. It was absolutely perfect.

35 pounds of strawberries waiting to be canned.

35 pounds of strawberries waiting to be canned.

For the past couple of weeks I have been cranky and edgy when driving Grace to and from work, but couldn’t put my finger on why. I think I’m a little bitter that her work is infringing on “Our Time.” I know this is only to be expected more and more as she gets older and more independent, but yesterday I had her all to myself for an entire morning like the good ole days and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Baltic Amber Stress Relief

A couple of months ago Gracie came home from work raving about Baltic amber and the healing qualities and health benefits it promised. Just to name a few of the possible benefits — migraine, sinus, body ache, stress, and anxiety relief. Not necessarily believing something as simple as pure amber could deliver on even half of what it promised, we did some research on the Internet.

Although there wasn’t a whole lot of information on Baltic amber, other than the typical sales pitch, Gracie was convinced this would help her immune system fight off the constant ailments she faces at school and work. So, I ordered us each a Baltic amber bracelet from Amazon.

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We have both been wearing these bracelets for about two months. I’m not sure I’ve noticed anything different because I control my migraines, stress, anxiety, and sinus issues with raw milk and my morning coffee. I have noticed, however, my stress levels do seem to be very low, so maybe it is picking up where the milk and caffeine leave off.

This morning after an especially stressful conversation with my mother on the phone which left me literally shaking, Gracie and I headed out on some errands. We finished our errands then decided to enjoy the sunshine by walking around a local outdoor mall.

As we strolled in and out of stores Gracie asked, “How is your amber bracelet working out for you?”

“I think okay.” I answered.

“Does it help with your stress and anxiety?” she continued.

“Well, you saw how well it helped when I was talking to your grandmother.”

Scoffing she replied, “It’s not a miracle worker, Mom!” We both laughed.

This was one of those special mother/daughter moments where laughter is truly the best medicine. I don’t know if the Baltic amber has any effect on the stresses in my life, but Gracie sure does. My stress level fell, the anxiety drained from my body, and the rest of the day each time I looked at my bracelet, I smiled, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.