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into each life some rain must fall . . . and fall . . . and fall some more

Time was when rain didn’t bother me. Being a gardener, most often I welcomed it.

Until 2013 when a torrential downpour pounded the new pavers just installed around the front of our home and found a seam into our downstairs family room. It left sopping carpet, damp walls, and a musty smell.

Talk about an unwanted surprise! Especially since the reason for paying thousands of dollars for a more decorative wall, pavers to cover a small courtyard garden and making a pathway around the house was to prevent water from invading our renovated basement.

I thought that was clear when we talked with the landscaper who contracted the work. And I did call after it happened, and when no one called back, left a long message on their internet site. That did bring the owner and her lawyer son to our home. They sort of agreed to “do something” but there would still be a cost to us for any materials needed, such as drains which should have been put in initially.

Thing is, no one followed through. And after repeated calls to the place of business and getting no response, I contacted a combination of contractors and businesses known to “fix” water problems. I contacted five in all. Each said the pavers were tilted toward the house which meant water would flow to the walls instead of away from them, and work its way into our downstairs. All said the problem could be  fixed and the cost ranged from $15,000 to $40,000-plus. The cost didn’t include taking up the pavers or replacing the family room carpet which was ruined, or the drywall, which would have to be pulled off the walls to see the extent of the damage.

Here we are five years later, the heavy black plastic my son covered the pavers and wall with to keep water outside, is still in place. It does its job but doesn’t fix the problem. So this may be the year we spend the money necessary to redo.

We’ve been advised to sue (not going to happen), to ignoring the issue (pretty much happening) to fixing the problem and being done with it.

So why am I blogging about it now? And why do I not just tell you who the landscaper is?

I’m blogging about it to get it out of my mind. And though I’d love to drag the local landscaper who didn’t follow through and come fix the problem through hot coals, I won’t. I will say the business has been around for a long time and it is NOT Lavalette Nursery.

Another reason for blogging about this is because I hope you benefit from it, do your research anytime you hire a job done, ask for references, check them, and ask for a contract specifying what you want done, and getting it in writing that there will be follow up if there are problems.

I did none of these things. Beyond having a materials list and cost for the work, there was nothing in writing to make sure the job allowed follow up if not satisfactory. So you might rightfully say, “Then this is really YOUR fault” and you’d be right. I was dumb and trusting. Don’t YOU be.

Yes, I do believe the business owner who figured she’d kept her part of the bargain and didn’t owe us anything more was, and is, wrong. If she had just followed through after we talked, we could have made it right. And yes, I do understand that if I had hounded her more and written about it back then, something might have been done. But should it have taken that?

And that’s where we’ll leave it. Just remember, the days of a handshake to seal a bargain are way over. Get everything in writing and seal it in blood.

All Done!

 

 

 

 

 

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WHY GARDEN. . .?

I ask only because  after deadheading flowers, lifting pots, pulling weeds, and resetting garden path stones, my bones hurt, my muscles ache, ants have crept inside my pant leg and there’s a patch of poison ivy on my arm driving me crazy.

I ask because it’s hard to garden when the weather goes  from hot to rainy to ninety degrees with humidity above eighty and more rain predicted (as though we haven’t had enough).

Yeah —  why DO we garden?

Because.

Because not gardening isn’t an option. Because something pulls us to the dirt and to creating beauty.

Some call gardening “art.” I call it necessary to the human condition, food for the soul, salve for anxiety, ice cream with no calories.

It’s been a crazy summer, though. The plants don’t know quite what to do about the weather. The sedum thrives but I’ve noticed some rotting deep inside where the sun (when it shines) doesn’t reach. Same for the cone flowers and the calibrochia.

The black-eyed Susan plants do well, though, and would probably grow in cement. I can’t complain about the lantana, either.

The new hydrangea trees my good friend Joe and I planted in the spring adapted quickly and have produced magnificent blooms, and the impatiens could not be more beautiful.

Having said that, the tomatoes are rotting before they ripen.

The eggplant is just now showing  signs of edible produce and forget picking a crop of bell peppers.

But the basil is beautiful and the small patch of thyme the birds planted for me looks ready to use.

So . . . why DO we garden?

Pleasure. Sheer, absolute, I don’t care if the bugs bite, I know I can’t kill all the Poison Ivy,  the ratio of rain/ sun sucks, I hurt all over, Pleasure.

I feel that as I sit on the porch swing every morning it doesn’t rain.

Sipping my coffee, I watch butterflies flit, hummingbirds zoom, and bees burrow deep into morning glories and daylilies.

As early sun highlights the crepe myrtle, and the golden finches come to feed, I feel happy and grateful that I am a gardener, and I think that Robert Browning had it exactly right when he wrote the words, “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”

 

 

 

What The Hell . . .?

Did Our President of Our United States just invite Vladimir Putin, former KGB power-man-now-Russian President, to the White House in Our Washington, D.C. to further talks after the debacle in Helsinki?

Really?

To do what? Further toady up to the Russian dictator (oh yes, he is!) and further make nice with the guy who denies any interference with  an American election? – and further, indicate belief  in that denial in spite of what his own American intelligence says?

I am not the brightest kid on the block, and I don’t make a habit of proclaiming my beliefs to anyone but my family and closest friends, but this is beyond the limits of being a Pollyanna who freely gives the other person the benefit of a doubt.

This is MY country being drowned. “Make America Great Again” my pussy-foot!

I don’t want to hear it about “fake news.” Everyone who watched the Helsinki summit and everyone who heard the groveling words that undermined American Intelligence and gave credence to Russian denial should understand we – this, our country – stands on a dangerous precipice. We have a president with a mega-ego besotted with men who wield total power and control. We have a president who would like that same control over we, the people, and we have a president who already wields a great deal of power as president. I might add, he has managed to gather those around him who don’t dare cross him, and has given them positions of power. Scary.

That I don’t like this man is well known through omission of saying nice things about him. I’ve never liked him as a human being, not since I watched two episodes of his TV show and thought, “wow, enough of this.” I believe he is a bully, not  nearly as intelligent as he thinks he is, definitely a womanizer (no, I don’t pity beautiful Melania, who, I think, is very smart and has her future well documented and secure) and I think he was more surprised than anyone that he actually flummoxed enough people to win the highest honor in our land.

For you who are still “Trumpers” — check with Snopes every time you think something printed or said is fake. They’re harbingers of truth and tell it straight. If you can’t find fact there, read. Watch. Look beyond what you think you’re hearing and seeing. I’ll say it again. Our country is in danger. A sickness is growing within us and few have had the courage to prescribe the cure.

This is MY country. As it is yours. For my part, I don’t want to be the ostrich who gets her backside burned because she didn’t speak out..

 

GOD BLESS AMERICA

“While the storm clouds gather

Far across the sea

Let us pledge allegiance

To a land that’s free


 

In 1938,  storm clouds blackened over Europe and spread with the rise of Germany’s dictator, Adolph Hitler. 

In America, the same year, with tension rising and the country divided about whether to stand with allies, songwriter Irving Berlin gave us “God Bless America,” a prayerful anthem for peace. Popular singer Kate Smith made it her signature song and Americans made it a hymn. 

“Let us all be grateful for a land so fair

As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer . . .”

Back then, America tried to avoid an escalating global war even as we watched Hitler ravage Europe, but when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, it became our war. It cost us more than 400,000 brave warriors and four years of conflict, but we won.

Today, the storm clouds gather again. Even to my naïve eye and non-political brain I know recent world events will have serious impact on America’s role and her future. Is another global war likely?

It depends on powerful leaders with short fuses and immense egos.

Here at home we have internal problems.

Division. Those who make laws and decisions for us can’t find common ground, so there are no solutions to:

Gun violence. Every day there’s a new story. Every day senseless lives lost.

Drugs. Too many are addicted. Too many die.

Increasing rise in the homeless and destitute. Many are veterans. Why?

Fear. We keep our children close to keep them safe from predators and dropped needles. We tuck concealed weapons in purses and pockets just in case. Our homes have security cameras and we lock our doors, even when we’re there. Strangers are not welcome and we look at anyone walking near our homes after dark with suspicion.

And probably in what should be the safest place anywhere — our schools — we have guards with guns and practice lockdowns, alert to the possibility of a school shooter.

“God Bless America.

Land that I love”

Do you think we’ve forgotten that our founding fathers built our country on Christian moral values? That if they found it necessary to include God in the building of our nation, it’s just as necessary to include Him today?

Stand beside her and guide her

Through the night with the light from above

Maybe it’s time to ask for wisdom for our country’s leaders, and blessings for our country.

From the mountains

To the prairies 

To the ocean white with foam

God Bless America

My home sweet home.”

 

 

 

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Prayer Is Not A Bad Word

 Is it popular now to end a conversation with “Prayers and love”?

I’ve noticed it happening a lot. Facebook has tons of people sending prayers for other people, or asking for prayers for themselves.

General conversation might well include the phrase, “praying for you (or the family, or a particular person.)”

I think it’s a wonderful thing. Others think it’s a superficial, trendy, empty phrase, like “See ya,” or “Have a good day.”

Thinking back to my Catholic upbringing, I believe prayer was part of my DNA in both its casual and formal way. I don’t remember whether my mother and father taught me and my eight brothers and sisters to think of God as accessible, but we did. I do remember that the nuns who taught us in school made sure we had the formal Catechetical knowledge about God’s place in our universe. Prayer seemed more private then. We prayed, but didn’t announce it.

So, where am I going with this?

Well, it seems a lot of us have learned some things about prayer.

First, it isn’t a dirty word. We feel pretty good about letting others know we care about them and saying so out loud or in writing.

Then, we feel secure enough in our beliefs to acknowledge there is A Supreme God who listens to us. (Or maybe we feel so insecure in a disintegrating world that we desperately need to believe in a God who listens and works miracles.)

You know what? It doesn’t matter. It only matters that we have faith; that we know there are things we can’t control and that there is a far greater Someone who can help if we ask.

Do I believe God answers every prayer?

Yes. I do.  But I believe He answers in ways we don’t always understand, which is why we have to trust. It isn’t always easy.

I know absolutely that asking God to take care of others makes us better people. I know that asking God for counsel can open us to new ways of thinking.

I know that right now, when I say, whoever you are, whatever your need, I pray for you, it is meant to be a blessing.

Prayer. A good thing.

 

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It’s Never Too Late — And We’re NEVER Too Old!

I’ve  been a writer for most of my eighty-some years. If I had a portfolio, it would include samples of radio and television commercials, TV scripts, grants, public television stories, published fiction and feature articles.

Being a “hired” writer never bothered me. I got paid for playing with words and having them seen and heard by a lot of people. When I left public television to join my already retired husband, the words kept coming and I wrote a book. When the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease locked its sights on him, and our children and I could only watch as it took him away bit by bit, keeping a journal helped relieve the frustration, the anxiety, and the stress of trying to be all that he needed.

When he died, words locked themselves in my head and I couldn’t find a key to unlock them. It was as if all the words I wanted to write left when he left.

I might have accepted it, rationalizing that getting older must mean that the creative part of my brain was done, but the need to play with words remained.

It helped to make lists – to do lists, Christmas giving lists, menus, grocery lists. Working the daily puzzles in the newspaper helped, too, and, while playing word games with my daughter didn’t quite erase the block, it was so satisfying, especially when I won.

It was when my last sibling died that I knew my days as a writer weren’t over. I had started a family history years before, making notes, asking my eight brothers and sisters about their memories of growing up in a first generation Italian family, visiting Ponza, birthplace of our parents, even exploring Ancestry.com.

The first draft of “Following The Past” is complete. Revision is taking time. At eighty-three, I feel much as I used to, polishing words right up to air time, back in the days of Everything Live TV. It’s the rush every writer gets, that of finding the right words. That never goes away, no matter how many years we’ve lived.

 I used to think getting older meant giving up things, but I don’t think that now. I know a ninety year old yoga teacher who is more limber than I was in my teens. I know a seventy-five year old who still does landscaping and has his own business and I have a friend who travels the world at eighty-one and only last year stopped working  full time.

So, yes, if we’ve a mind to keep doing what we love, we ought to try, no matter how old we are.

I’ll let you know when my book is ready to read.

MY QUIET MORNING

First light.

Quiet.

A restless night of worry about things I can’t control takes all hope of sleep. I can choose to stay in bed or get up.

I choose getting up, annoyed that my sleep is ruined and probably my day.

LacyDog and TuxCat stay with their dreams, neither interested in leaving warm nests, so I sit alone in the still-dark sun room sipping my first cup of coffee.

I’d forgotten that magic happens at this early hour.  Through the back windows I see the bare limbs of the tall oaks reach upwards, silhouettes against the sky. The early birds begin their songs and the frogs way down below croak along.

I watch as fingers of light touch the world,  lifting the covers of darkness. Stars whisper goodbye and the sky welcomes dawn.

Before I know it, light touches me, too, and there’s acute realization that I’m watching the handiwork of God. As I allow the serenity of morning to fill me, anxiety lessens and my busy brain with its endless list of things to do, calms.

I become quiet, mind and body, as the first rays of sun chase the shadows and make diamonds of leftover water drops from the night’s rain.

It’s a new day and a clear sky promises  dry weather. I feel good, as though I’d just swallowed a tonic for my soul. The  miracle of this morning makes me smile.

I’d like to think I’ll do this every morning, getting up to watch the day begin. Knowing me, it’s not likely. I love sleeping in.

This morning, though, was special, a gift, the answer to a prayer I didn’t even pray.

Thank you.