July 17, 2014

  • Restful Night

    In spite of having almost no sleep night before last, and what little sleep I managed being disturbed by weird dreams, I had a productive day yesterday. I wrote a blog, worked out a two-week menu, made a shopping list, clipped coupons online, picked up a friend and drove to a village a few miles away to look for a geocache, went online to a confusing website and found the form I need, printed it and filled it out, drove to the clinic in The ‘Ville and picked up a new prescription, picked up and ate lunch, did the grocery shopping, stopped at the post office and mailed the prescription and the filled out form to the mail-order pharmacy our health insurance provider forces us to use, unloaded and put away the groceries, and picked, washed and froze raspberries. All while feeling woolly-headed.

    I did not bake cookies, make jam, or go to water aerobics. Had I been rested and alert, I would have managed at least two of those things, and possibly all three.

    Last night I did not drink an alcoholic beverage too close to bedtime so I was able to take my little blue miracle pill and have a restful night of dreamless sleep. I have an ambitious list for today, but I’m still feeling tired. They say that for every one hour of sleep you miss, it takes your body three hours of sleep to compensate. I expect this sleepiness I feel will pass by Saturday if I manage to sleep well the next two nights. I hope so, because so far today I’ve managed to take a shower and put a load of towels in the washer, neither of which was on my ambitious to-do list so I don’t even have the satisfaction of crossing them off.

July 16, 2014

  • Dreaming

    I have suffered from insomnia since I was about 12 years old. There have been years during which I had more restful nights than sleepless, but they were mostly when I was in my 20s and 30s. Back in 2006, when my dad’s already poor health began to fail in earnest, the insomnia got worse and my eyes started twitching, so I talked to my doctor and she prescribed an anti-anxiety medication that helped me fall asleep at night, but after about four hours of sleep I would wake up and spend the rest of the night wide awake. After three years of not getting a full night of sleep, during which time my dad passed away and a lot of other really crappy stuff happened, my doctor prescribed sleeping pills for me. I call them my little blue miracle pills. From time to time I try to sleep without taking one; always without success.

    One of the side effects of my little blue miracle pills is that I either don’t dream, or more likely just don’t remember my dreams. I sleep all night (most of the time) and wake up most mornings feeling rested. When I don’t take a sleeping pill, I catnap through the night, have weird dreams while I’m napping, and get up in the morning feeling dopey and sluggish.

    Last night I didn’t take a sleeping pill and I napped and dreamed and woke throughout the very long night. This morning I wrote down the dreams while I could still remember them. They make no sense to me at all.

    ~~~~~

    In one dream, I woke up early in the morning, even before my early rising husband, and was driving around The ‘Duh in my nightgown. Except The ‘Duh was not really The ‘Duh. I got home before my husband awoke and went back to bed. (I hate dreaming that I woke up; I’m never sure whether it was truly a dream.)

    ~~~~~

    In the next dream, a woman with long blonde hair showed up in my bedroom early in the morning, sat on the edge of my bed and started telling me a long, involved story that had something to do with an old blog I wrote about respect. Before she could finish, my husband came in the room to kiss me goodbye before heading to work and the woman took her husband (who had mysteriously appeared) outside. The husband’s face was disfigured and the woman so obsessed with a blog about respect was making fun of her husband’s appearance as they went out the door.

    ~~~~~

    I woke, fell asleep again, and dreamed that I walked out of the bedroom and onto the back porch and we suddenly had a carport and a dirt driveway. The woman and her husband were still there, along with two scruffy little dogs that were digging in the driveway. As I stood on the cement porch and watched the dogs, I could see the dirt moving as some animal just under the surface swam toward me. The dirt flowed forward, up the side of the cement and onto the porch. It was like sand scattered in the shape of a small, rodent-like creature and the sand kept moving.

    ~~~~~

    In the next dream, I went back into the house and wandered into a bedroom that was furnished with my parents’ old dressers and king-sized bed. Scattered on the bed were cryptic notes from my husband and envelopes stuffed with cash.

    ~~~~~

    My daughter appeared in the final dream. We walked into a small bedroom in my house and my mother’s piano was in the room. I told my daughter that I kept forgetting I had that piano and she should take it since I already had one of my own.

    ~~~~~

    I have no idea what meaning, if any, these dreams have. I thought it was interesting that they all connected and the settings didn’t change much in any of them. If any of you are experts in dream interpretation, feel free to enlighten me.

July 14, 2014

  • Photos from the weekend

    I don’t have much time, but thought I’d spend a few minutes to let you know I survived the bicycle geocaching and even think it would be fun to do it again… maybe on a cooler day, though.

    The weekend was crazy! Friday was filled with raspberries, tai chi, and going to the drive-in.

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    Waiting for the movie to start.

     

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    Already wishing the movie hadn’t started.

    We saw Earth to Echo. It was pretty terrible. I’d give it 1/2 a star out of 5, only because the kid who plays Munch shows some promise of maybe being able to act someday, and because there were two lines in the movie that made me chuckle. Especially near the end of the movie when a woman says what the entire audience is wondering. We came home reeking of insect repellant and covered in mosquito bites.

    Saturday I went to the pool and later Brett and I strolled through the Krasl Art Fair. We didn’t get out there until an hour before it closed for the day, so crowds were much thinner than usual and we actually found parking within two or three blocks of the bluff. We’ll have to remember to go late from now on.

    Sunday I skipped church, loaded my bike onto the bike rack on the back of my van and drove to Niles, Michigan to meet up with murisopsis and Old Dog Sparky. I mentioned this in my last post.

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    We biked and geocached the length of the new Brandywine Creek Trail that goes from Niles to South Bend, Indiana. It’s only about three miles, but it took us more than three hours because we stopped thirty times to look for geocaches.

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    We found 27 of them. Of the three we missed, one had been moved to the other side of the trail and we didn’t have the updated coordinates, one we just didn’t find, and one was missing. It was a fun day, but hot and sunny. I’m glad I remembered the sunscreen this time! We met a gentleman (and his dog Buddy) who was selling ice water from his yard next to the trail. Fifty cents for a small bottle, a dollar for a large.

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    I bought a large bottle and poured most of it over my neck. Buddy was very friendly, as was his owner.

    We brought snacks with us. I made some homemade trail mix using low fat granola, mixed nuts, mixed dried fruit, and sunflower seeds. I also brought some red seedless grapes. Val brought butt fruit.

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    That was her name for it, not mine!

    Notice the vest murisopsis is wearing? We each had one, thanks to a certain pirate on xanga. I was too hot to wear mine yesterday, but I’m looking forward to cooler weather and not having to carry my geocaching bag with me. There are pockets for all our gear, water, dry socks, phones, pens… and it makes bicycle caching much easier. What an awesome gift!

    And that was my weekend. I got so hot and dirty (or drenched in OFF) so many times I had to take six showers and wash my hair three times. I guess the more showers and shampoos you need, the more awesome the weekend has been.

July 13, 2014

  • Rolling Along

    I am getting ready to leave for an afternoon of geocaching with murisopsis and OldDogSparky.  Our mode of transportation today will be bicycle. I pulled my awesome yellow Panama Jack bike out of the storage shed last week; it’s been languishing there since last summer because I injured my knee this spring and hadn’t felt up to testing it by cycling. So today is the big test, and instead of a couple of times around the church parking lot on the street behind us, I’ll be on a bike trail from Niles, Michigan to South Bend, Indiana. I know that sounds really impressive, but it looks like it’s only about a three mile trail. Still, for a first test of my knee (and my gluteus maximus, which is usually what hurts the most after a bike ride) it’s a fair distance.

    I have successfully (I think) attached my old bike rack to my new(ish) van. I have securely (I hope) attached my beloved Panama Jack to the bike rack. I have a big, greasy chain stain on my turquoise tank top from lifting the bike onto the rack. I have mixed up some homemade trail mix (low-fat granola, dried mixed fruit, mixed nuts, sunflower seeds), put some red seedless grapes in a baggie, loaded all the geocaches, remembered sunscreen this time, along with four types of insect repellent, got my camera, my phone and my GPS all charged and ready to go, eaten a tuna sandwich, and topped off the gas tank (because no way is gas going to stay at 3.45/gal. for much longer). All that’s left to do is change my shirt and let Boo back inside. And convince myself that three miles is no big deal…  for a first bike ride of the year… after a knee injury…

    It’s no big deal.

    I can do this.

    It’s going to be FUN!!!

    Pray for me.

     

July 10, 2014

  • Washing Clothes and Other Things

    Last week was our annual Third of July Party which culminated in the big fireworks show sponsored by The ‘Duh and shot off in the field near our house. We were in the middle of a blackout caused by a huge storm that went through the area a couple of nights before, so I hadn’t been able to fully charge my camera batteries. I did run to the Red Cross chapter the day of the party and work the front desk for a couple of hours in exchange for scattering my electronics at various outlets throughout the building. One camera battery was not fully charged by the time I had to leave, but I thought I’d have enough juice for the night. I installed the not quite full battery in my camera and tucked the extra, safely encased in its little plastic case, in the snapped down pocket of my cargo pants.

    I don’t think I took any photos until the fireworks show started. Once the show started, I took quite a few good photos, like this one.

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    My little point and shoot camera takes awesome fireworks photos! After the show, traffic crawls down our little street for about an hour and we spend that time putting away the food, breaking down the tables, stacking the chairs, emptying the ice and carrying the leftover cans of pop to the back porch, putting out the tiki torches, and visiting with those guests who parked at our house and have to wait for the field to clear before they can leave.

    Brett and I are both utterly exhausted by the time the last guest leaves and we can stumble into the house, trudge up the stairs and collapse into our bed. We barely even noticed that we had no electricity that night. I think we were both too tired to take showers before going to bed; good thing it had been a cool day. We just threw our clothes in the hamper, put on our pjs, brushed our teeth by flashlight and fell into bed.

    Our power came back on around noon the next day and the first thing I did was start the laundry. Our socks and undies situation was on the verge of becoming desperate. By desperate, I mean that I would have had to start washing our socks and underwear by hand. I don’t mind doing my own, but washing somebody else’s dirty underwear by hand – no matter how much I love that somebody else – is not high on my list of Ways to Show I Love You. I’m a terrible person.

    Anyway, I was able to do the laundry and clean out the refrigerator and freezer, and go to the grocery store to replace some of the food we had to throw away, and cook all the meat that had thawed, but stayed cold with all the ice we’d stuffed into the freezer. It was a busy, busy day. Usually the day after party day we clean up the yard and then just take it easy the rest of the day, but not this year. So we went to bed utterly exhausted again that night.

    I wanted to go geocaching the next day. We both had stuff to do that morning, but after lunch we changed into geocaching clothes, gathered our gear and headed out. My geocaching clothes are a sleeveless shirt, a long sleeved shirt to put over it for protection from thorns and poison ivy, and cargo pants so I have enough pockets to keep my phone, my notebook, my pen, my gloves, some swag and my tweezers. And, apparently, my spare camera battery.

    Oops. Yes, friends, I washed and dried my camera battery. It did not survive. I have a feeling it made it through the washing machine and got killed in the dryer. I tried charging it yesterday and it looked like it was trying to charge, but after a few minutes the yellow light faded out and I knew it was gone for good.

    Here’s my dilemma; I like the convenience of a small point and shoot camera and I love the fireworks setting on my little Sony Cybershot. I would love to step up a bit, though, and get something a little bit better. I really don’t want to spend money on another battery for the Sony, but it might be a couple of years before I can get a more expensive camera and a battery probably won’t cost more than $12 or $15. I’ll have to look at cameras and maybe talk to Nelson, who goes through cameras like I go through a package of Twizzlers.

    But I digress. The point of this post was supposed to be:

    1. Always empty your pockets at the end of the day.
    2. Always check pants pockets before you do the laundry.
    3. Don’t put your spare battery in a pocket where you can’t feel it.

    Yep, that about sums it up. On the bright side, the little plastic battery case is perfectly fine and now it’s sparkling clean.

     

     

July 6, 2014

  • My Day in Chronological Order

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    The swimming pool. I didn’t take my cell phone there.

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    I didn’t take a photo of the swarms of mosquitoes. Too busy trying to kill them.

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    Don’t look at the next one, Val!

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    705 waldo 500

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    Ending the day where it started… with raspberries.

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    How did you spend your Saturday?

July 5, 2014

  • Blackout Party

    Thursday was our 23rd annual Third of July Party. For a while we weren’t sure the party was going to happen. We had a huge storm blow through the area on Monday night, causing power outages in several counties in southern Michigan and northern Indiana (and most likely Illinois and other states west of us). This was the view down the alley behind our house on Tuesday morning, after a lot had already been cleaned up. The power pole is just out of sight on the right.

    storm alley

    This photo is hard to see, but it shows one of the two branches that got tangled in the power lines, catching fire and causing the lines to short out.

    storm branch

    As the outage stretched into its third day, we weren’t sure if The ‘Duh was still going to put on its fireworks show on the 3rd. We don’t take the crappy local newspaper anymore and we had no internet during the outage, so we went on the assumption that the show would go on and people would show up at our house.

    Just as our guests were beginning to arrive, a truck from the power company showed up to remove the branches from the power lines. They didn’t get the power restored, but it was encouraging that they had finally shown up in The ‘Duh.

    aep truck

    We put a plan in place to provide enough light for our guests to feel comfortable moving around the yard and finding their way from the backdoor to the bathroom. Here is how you survive a party during a blackout:

    1. Lots of tiki torches encircling the house and conversation areas; cheap, battery operated Japanese lanterns above the conversation area; two oil lanterns on the back porch.

    blackout party lights

    2. Inside the house we had a couple of strategically placed battery operated lanterns.

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    3. And to make it less scary walking into a dark house that wasn’t their own, we lit the way from the backdoor to the bathroom with a lane of connected glow necklaces taped to the floor.

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    The fireworks went on because, “You don’t need lights to shoot off fireworks.” ~local volunteer fireman. It was a good show, and of course I took photos! Here are a few of my favorites.

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    Hope you are all enjoying the holiday weekend, and all my east coast friends are safe and dry.

    EDIT: I failed to mention our power was restored around noon Friday. Cable and internet came back up immediately as soon as the electricity was back.

     

July 3, 2014

  • The Great Blackout of 2014 – Day 3

    It all started on Monday night. Boo was bundled in his thunder shirt and locked in his kennel, trembling so hard and fast the kennel was vibrating. I draped blankets over it and tried to sneak upstairs to bed, but every time I got a few steps up the staircase, Boo would start barking and trying to gnaw his way out of the kennel. So I sat on the bottom step and spoke soothingly to him.

    Midnight had passed and 1:00 was looming. I was so tired. I stood up slowly to make another attempt at slipping away when I noticed a weird orange reflection in the window. I went to the backdoor and tried to look out, but it was covered in dirt. “That can’t be good,” I remember thinking. I opened the door and tried to peer through the deluge, but all I could see was a dancing, bright orange light 15 or 20 feet off the ground near the back corner of our yard. It suddenly dawned on me that I was seeing fire and I just had time to wonder whether I should call the fire department or wake Brett first, when there was a whoosh, a pop, a bang, and the fire went out, along with the power all through the neighborhood.

    I went upstairs to find Brett up and putting on his robe. Apparently there’d been a lightning strike and huge clap of thunder. Something in my brain shuts down my ears when there’s a big, scary sound like that. When I was a kid, the roof came off our house during a hurricane and everyone said it sounded like a freight train going through the house. I didn’t hear a thing.

    Brett went down to inspect the basement and found water pouring out of the furnace. The neighbors across the street were all worked up, but it was still dumping rain and incredibly dark. The lightning was flashing so quickly it was disorienting. And the wind… wow. That was some crazy wind!

    The fire I saw was most likely sparks, caused by a couple of large tree branches that fell into the electric lines that run along the edge of the alley behind our house. The pole is at the back corner of our raspberry patch. The dirt on our backdoor window was from a small branch that had hit the door and punched through the screen. There were a lot of small branches in our yard. We were lucky. Just up the road in The ‘Ville there are trees down everywhere. We were not lucky with the power outage, however. The entire ‘Duh has been without electricity for two days now. All those cherries I spent hours and hours picking, pitting and freezing lost no time thawing. I made cherry jam with about half of them this morning. I may end up throwing out the rest of them, along with the first of this year’s raspberries. I haven’t bothered picking anything the past two days.

    Tuesday the basement filled up with gas from the furnace. The water that poured down the chimney had doused the pilot light. Brett came home and shut off the gas, opened the window over the old coal chute and went back to work. I kept all the windows and doors open and when Brett came home later in the afternoon, he got the pilot relit and the gas dissipated.

    Today is July 3rd – the day of The ‘Duh’s fireworks show and our annual 3rd of July party. We are still without power. Rumor on the street is that power may be restored by Friday. The ‘Duh is still preparing for the fireworks show, so we are preparing for our party. This is America, dammit! We don’t let a little rain keep us from eating ourselves into a coma and blowing stuff up! We’re Americans! We can blow stuff up in a food coma, in the dark! As one of our local volunteer firemen said, “You don’t need lights to set off fireworks.”

    So we will have our party. I bought battery operated lanterns to light the way from the backdoor to the bathroom. (We might also duct tape glow necklaces to the floor just because it would be awesome.) We have fuel for the tiki torches and I found enough of a cell phone signal while I was running errands today to put up a post on Facebook asking people to bring their camp lanterns. We will remember this party as “the blackout party.” Unless the power is restored by tomorrow, and then this party will fade into the hazy jumble of the 22 parties before it. Except for that one where a storm blew in off the lake and 65 wet people crowded into my living room, then, during a lull in the storm, they shot off a 30 minute fireworks show in 10 minutes. That one stands out.

    I am currently sitting at the reception desk at the Red Cross chapter. I came in to charge my laptop, Kindle, cell phone and camera batteries and decided to make myself useful while I’m here. Maybe by Friday I’ll be back online, but I have a bad feeling about our internet and cable; it comes through that pole in the corner of the raspberry patch. I hope you all have fun stuffing your faces and blowing stuff up. Be safe!

June 28, 2014

  • A Hell of a Trip

    We have lived in Michigan for 22 years and have spent very little time exploring this state. Usually when Brett has some time off and we want to go somewhere, we head to Arkansas or Texas to visit family, or to someplace out of state we want to see, like Mt. Rushmore. Brett had to burn off a couple of vacation days this week, so we decided to visit three Michigan towns we’ve heard about a lot since moving here, but had never visited. And of course we went geocaching in each town because that’s what we do.

    Our first stop was Hell. Literally. We took the highway to Hell.

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    I had a little fun inverting the colors and some other editing on this photo. There is a geocache on the sign; we always like it when we can combine a geocache with a photo op. We got to Hell around lunchtime.

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    Turns out, there are some pretty good sandwiches in Hell, made with homemade bread and served on coffin-shaped plates.

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    Turns out, the Gates of Hell lead to a kitschy miniature golf course. Who knew?

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    There were also several of those signs with holes in them to stick your face through. Who even does that anymore? So tacky.

     

    Hell 5  Hell 4

    I have no idea who those people are.

    Hell was not an easy place for geocaching. We got three or four caches there and quit before I was completely devoured by mosquitoes. Brett didn’t get a nibble. When I complained about it, he explained it to me in scientific terms. “Genetically, you are chocolate and I am turnips,” he informed me.

    We left Hell and drove to Chelsea. It’s a very pretty town with a gorgeous clock tower.

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    I also spotted this cool cow hanging off the side of a building. I was so focused on the cool cow, I didn’t notice the sign above it’s poor, doomed head.

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    We didn’t have much luck geocaching in Chelsea, mainly because it was so freaking hot and we’d been guzzling water and couldn’t find a public bathroom. We did find one cache at the clock tower. While Brett was looking unsuccessfully for another cache, I wandered down the road about a block to see the Purple Rose Theatre.

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    The Purple Rose is owned by actor Jeff Daniels and I’ve been wanting to see a play there for a long time. I’m going to keep an eye on their productions and make an effort to get there in the next year.

    We left Chelsea and continued northeast to Frankenmuth. Well, technically we went to Birch Run, crashed a local geocachers’ monthly Meet & Greet, and spent the night at the Hampton Inn. A funny thing happened at the Meet & Greet. There was a woman there from Texas who was visiting her mother. She looked at Brett’s geocaching name (waldowalking) and asked, “Are you the one I heard about that was at GeoWoodstock?” Yep, that was him! He wore his Waldo costume at a gathering of thousands of geocachers in Missouri and somebody from Texas recognized him on the other side of the state from where we live. A couple of other people said they’d either seen him or pictures of him. Small world. He was so tickled he went out to the van, put on his Waldo costume and posed for pictures. (Of course we travel with a Waldo costume. Doesn’t everybody?)

    The next morning we picked up a few caches in Birch Run before heading to Frankenmuth. We could tell from the very beginning that we were going to have a great day. Frankenmuth was definitely the most geocacher friendly town we visited on our mini-trip. For those of you not from Michigan, Frankenmuth is a picturesque town with a Bavarian theme. There was a covered bridge…

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    … and a quaintly painted barn…

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    … and lots and lots of Old World Bavarian architecture. While we were walking near the covered bridge, somebody stopped their vehicle and asked us, “Pardon me, could you direct us to the glockenspiel?” I’ll bet you’ve never been asked that. We ate lunch at the Bavarian Inn and were serenaded by a man in lederhosen playing polkas on the accordian. No photo because Brett fled, and whither he goest, I goeth when we’re far from home and he’s got the car keys. After awhile, the cuteness and quaintness began to feel like a humongous version of It’s a Small World. But we found every single geocache we looked for that day.

    We ended our time in the area at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It’s like a Christmas version of the Vegas strip. We bought our Christmas ornament for this year and found something for a friend. We also found the geocache hidden under the giant Christmas tree at the bottom of the giant man-made hill with the giant Santa Claus on top.

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    One hour at Bronners had us suffering from sensory overload, and we only went into the West Addition of the store. I couldn’t help thinking that we’d begun our little trip in one Hell and ended it in another.

    It was fun getting to see some bits of Michigan we hadn’t visited before.

June 17, 2014

  • Peace Rose

    Many years ago I bought my mom a climbing peace rose for her birthday. She planted it outside my dad’s bedroom window and it flourished. When my dad was bedridden and dying, he enjoyed looking at the beautiful yellow and orange roses through the window. Mom would cut bouquets of roses and put them in a vase on his nightstand. After Dad’s graveside service, Mom placed a bouquet of peace roses she had cut that morning on his coffin.

    Last summer, Brett and I helped clean out Mom’s house after she was placed in a nursing home. The peace rose was as high as the roof and in glorious bloom. The last day we were at the house, Brett cut the blooms, cut back the rose plant and dug it up. He dug up as much of the red Arkansas clay as he could with the roots and placed the plant in a five-gallon bucket in the back of our van. We stopped at the cemetery on our way out of town and left the cut roses on Dad’s grave. It was a week before we got home, but the rose still looked healthy in spite of sitting in the van in the summer heat. Brett transplanted it into the sandy Michigan soil in his butterfly garden at the back of our yard.

    The past winter was very hard on the garden; both butterfly bushes and all three climbing roses had to be severely cut back. One of the butterfly bushes will probably have to be removed. The roses fared better, and the peace rose survived its first northern winter better than any of them. The other two climbing roses have put out leaves, but no blooms yet. The peace rose puts forth more beauty every day, which I’ve been recording with cell phone photos.

    The first bloom opened up on June 11 in a gorgeous shade of deep orange with yellow highlights.

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    Five days later, it had turned a pinkish red hue and another flower opened that was yellow with orange along the edges of the petals.

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    That was Monday, June 16. By Tuesday morning, the yellow rose was turning orange and several new flowers had opened.

     

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    After the trauma of being cut back and dug up while it was in bloom, stuck in a bucket in the back of a van for a week, transplanted to entirely different soil and climate, and cut back again after a particularly long and vicious winter, this little plant not only survived, but thrived. It surprises us every day with its vibrant beauty displaying itself in unexpected ways.

    The peace rose is a beautiful, living reminder of both my parents, and an encouragement that no matter how stressful the situation, how hostile the environment, and how radical the changes we face, we can not only survive, but grow in unexpected and wonderful ways.