Tag Archives: spring

Friendship Friday ~ Esther

I know what you do in your spare time. 

Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.

Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.

She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.

She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.

Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?

I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.

Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.

Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.

I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.

This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.

I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.

If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?

Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.

I am right!

Messy Change

A friend recently posted Change is messy as his Facebook status. It quickly became my mantra for this season of transition.

I don’t like change or messy.

A vivid picture of this took place the other evening as I gathered materials to plant the porch planter. It once housed the hibiscus, which has since gone the way of plants who have lived out their time with us. I try not to read too much into its death.

I had an idea in my head of what I would like to try with the pot and began the process of change. Garden gloves on so as not to dirty my hands, I began gingerly scooping soil and piling compost to the side and around the inside edge of the full pot to make room for the new plant.


Oh no, some dirt spilled out onto the porch. I need to find something to scoop the extra soil into. Why can’t I just shove it around in the pot and try to make room for the new plant? I really don’t want to make a mess.

Trying to scoop a deep enough hole for the new plant to fit into the pot properly without spilling any soil out was impossibly frustrating. I didn’t want to make a mess in the midst of potting a plant. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s where I was!

My first attempt at placing the plant revealed the hole to be too shallow. Tempted to just shove it in and make do by heaping soil high around it, I knew that I would regret this decision later. I removed the plant, laid it on its side, and continued to dig deeper.

getting messy

This is taking too long. I really want to just get it done and enjoy the finished product. Time is ticking!

Often that is how it is with change. We have to wait for it to happen. We have to be in the midst of the messiness. We begin to ache.

planting process

Oh, my back! Why does bending and squatting hurt so much more these days?

I stood to stretch and survey the initial result and subsequent mess I had made before beginning the process of sweeping up the remaining soil.

sweeping up the mess

A few days later, the makeshift empty milk jug watering can was replaced by my luvvvah with a new one along with some additional flowers to add to the pot.


Sometimes change is surprising.

flowers in the porch planter

Hello, Beautiful Blooms! I am looking forward to watching you grow and change this summer!


Restoring the Swing

This year’s word, Restore, has proven itself surprising in many ways.

One such way happened on Mother’s Day, but not really. Mother’s Day was the culmination of the restoration. It took awhile to process all of the feelings that swirled inside of me that day. After some time and a little bit of quiet, I am able to write.

Last September there was a post titled Seasonal Ritual where I detailed the return to the basement of the porch swing and my feelings about the whole thing. Not long after, I received a message from a dear friend asking about the swing.

She read the post and, having given birth recently and living in the country where there was a porch without a swing and having a baby who needed lots of movement, wondered if she and her husband could pick up mine to borrow for a season if they returned it painted.

I was more than happy to oblige, and my son kindly catered to a request that once again he bring the swing up from the basement to the porch. Soon after, it was gone. I was glad that it was being used and thought no more about it.

Recently, while catching up, my friend noted that her family was moving and that they would no longer need the swing. Sometime it would be returned to my porch. I assured her there was no rush and, again, thought no more about it.

This is what made for quite a surprise when Mother’s Day afternoon found me returning home from planting the planter to finding a painted swing sitting on the porch. There was a thank you note with the swing and the following comment on the blog:

We dropped off your porch swing this afternoon (this is me letting you know, so that in case somehow it isn’t there, we can sort it out!). I noticed the reno, but I also noticed the chair by the door, the beautiful house number plaque, the lantern, and all the pretty flowers growing around the house. I had been having a “wait oh no what if this is the wrong house” moment, until I saw those things–and then I thought, “Nope, this is Julie’s house.” Because of all the beauty in the midst of the mess. Because of all the ways I can see that you intentionally took time to create loveliness, even though it’s not all perfect. Keep up the good work, friend! 🙂 Thanks again for the swing; it provided this new and growing momma with many breathers.

Tears began to flow which morphed into sobs as I read her words affirming all that I was feeling insecure about with regards to my house and all that is unfinished and messy. The fact that the swing returned to me on Mother’s Day was also significant, and my heart opened to the magnitude of that gift.

The following weekend, my luvvah made a trip to Lowes for supplies and hung the swing for me. I love it.

porch swing

So do the kids.

porch swing

And things are still not perfect on the porch.

Roo on swing

But there is beauty.

Mother’s Day Recap ’16

How was your Mother’s Day?

It’s a question asked and replied to the days following Mother’s Day, and now, a week later, I have some space and time to think about it and respond. How was it?

It was a different sort of day this year.

My husband, father of the ones who call me Mother, rose early to drive two hours to Richmond to meet up with a daughter for breakfast. After breakfasting with and seeing her off to work, he met up with another daughter and her husband who had kept our two youngest for the weekend. They went to church together and spent the afternoon before he drove home with the little girls, arriving in the early evening.

I woke to a quiet house and an apple fritter on the table to eat with my coffee before church. There was also a jar of homemade bath salts from my youngest and some lavender bath soak from my husband. Obviously, that is a theme for me and one way that I relax. The donuts left for the three at home with me were a thoughtful touch.

Heading to church with only two children was usual, but good. It’s amazing how the dynamic changes when the mix of people is rearranged. The text from my son’s girlfriend was lovely.

After church, I took my twins to Taco Bell for lunch. Much laughter and silliness and spilling of drinks occurred. Much staring and feeling like I was in the center ring while trying to exercise patience in the moment made for a memorable time with my middle schoolers.

clesn-up crew

I was thankful to my son for cleaning this spill cheerfully and didn’t feel at all bad that my daughter had gotten a medium, rather than a large, drink.


Moments of laughter and happy children made lunchtime special.

There were kittens at my parents’ house, and since I plant a planter for my mother each year, I decided to go over there and kill two birds. My twins, born two years apart, enjoyed the babies while I enjoyed the soil and sunshine. Win-win.


After quick drive to drop some potted flowers to Steve’s mom, we headed home to rest.

We're twins!

I had high hopes for my quiet time that wasn’t exactly quiet. I tend to build things up in my head and think that there will be SO MUCH TIME to do ALL THE THINGS. I took a quick snooze, and then time was up.

No writing. No finishing reading a book. No soak in the tub or painting of nails. Lots of middle school engagement.

After quiet time my firstborn called and asked if I had seen the gift from her and her husband. They had contributed to my counseling certificate fund. Earlier in the day, I had noticed it shared on Facebook and thought THAT was their gift. A shout out of encouragement. Noticing a financial gift and their words of affirmation made my heart feel full.

Later, another child surprised me with a gift towards my goal, as well. I felt loved that he didn’t just tell me to get a job to earn some extra money, which, by the way, I am also doing in the form of not spending, finding things to sell, and looking for ways to pick up some extra work.

Husband returned with my little girls bearing gifts of chocolate and a gift that my adult daughter gave him for me at breakfast. It was two bottles of purple OPI polish. This was a HUGE surprise and so meaningful. I love having a fun new summer color or two and ALMOST broke down and bought myself a bottle the weekend before. But then I remembered I am saving for my certificate and refrained.

I love being known so well by my kids and appreciated each one’s individual bit of thoughtfulness.

There was one more surprise that came to me on Mother’s Day, but it needs its own post. I am still sorting where it fits in and the magnitude of its meaning to me.

So there’s the long answer to a short question. Mother’s Day was full of love and people and meaning and laughter. All of the good things that it should be enveloped my heart this year, leaving me so very grateful and feeling so very loved.

Thanks for asking!


Productive Stillness

I seize a moment when the clouds part and sun shines to run outside to the strawberry patch. The ground, softened by days of rain, offers up its weeds with no resistance, though an occasional tiny berry is mixed in and sacrificed to their twisted, choking growth.

Extracting myself from the tasks at hand inside is a challenge, but sunshine, fresh air, and moist soil draw me to the present, and white flowers beckon me to notice them. I stop and breathe, accepting the invitation to a bit of productive stillness.

strawberry plants

This is where it started, the inspiration to write for a blog outside of my own, in the strawberry patch. Each year reminds me of that. That, and a number of other things, like the fact that the strawberries were planted by my firstborn when she was still a teenager at home, and the first plants came from my dear friend’s yard before her life took a traumatic turn, exiling her from that home and yard.

There is a fence around the strawberries now. It is a nod to trying to keep the dog from trampling them, but it’s not working very well. Dewey has no problem in leaping with excitement over the low barrier if one of his doggie friends happens to be passing by or if he feels a need to defend his turf.

strawberry patch

It is so imperfect, the place that calls me back each year, rising from the ashes, defying proper gardening techniques. Each year I think, I’ll do better at tending this patch and putting it to bed when the season ends. Then I don’t do better. Each year strawberry grace meets me again.

I don’t know what this year’s yield will be or when we will eat our first shortcake or if there will be an attempt at jam. That remains to be seen. What I do know is that today I was met in the strawberry patch with kindness and grace and hope.