So: trip down memory lane

I’ve spent the past couple of days visiting with my parents. The place where they live these days is not one of the many homes I grew up in. It has become somewhat familiar over the past 14 years, but truthfully I have not visited here as much as I should have. I’ve met up with my parents in another of other places, usually with lots of other people around.

This time I had them all to myself.

There was a lot of show and tell, mostly because my parents are avid travelers these days. So there were hours of hearing lots of stories, showing of souvenirs, flipping through amazing photos of exotic and not-so-exotic locales. We ate a lot of food. We drove around in their golf cart. My mom and I spent a couple hours at the pool. We just hung out.

But one of the other things that I did was go through a big box of stuff that my mom tells me that I wanted to save so she’s moved it several times. And at this point, she wants it out of the garage. (She also offered me some vintage Daisy covered 1960s outdoor cups, a matching ice bucket, and a matching pitcher that she had in the garage. She’ll ship them to me.)

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picture from etsy of a similar daisy ice bucket and tumblers that my mom wants out of her house


By the way, I had no recollection of this box or putting things into this tattered box.

I put off digging through it until after dinner tonight because there was so much reading involved. You see, in amongst certificates earned for playing the piano, programs for long ago violin concerts, science fair programs, attendance and field day certificates, a couple of sweet love letters from a very articulate high school boyfriend, a few pieces of jewelry, 80s LPs, some trinkets from my grandparents’ vacations, and a bit of random proof that at one time in my life I could do math, I found many reasons why there was no other life’s work meant for me besides writing (well, maybe except for farming, but I consider that a Plan B career possibility).

I also found BandAid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

In addition to this classic, I also found BandAid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

 

The box was crammed full of paper. But what was obviously important to me were the words on the piles of paper (and the grades earned).

So tonight I:
-read a completely incoherent “story” that I wrote and illustrated in kindergarten.
-found countless book reports and essays marked with neat A+ grades, some with the occasional comment in red about my atrocious spelling.
-saw how I could put together very technical hand drawn graphs, charts, maps, and handwritten copy and make a lovely presentation.
-enjoyed a “book” I titled Absurdities which had bizarre drawings of things like a four-legged woman and a pink cat and crazy descriptions that made me wonder if my teachers in the 1970s were feeding us kids mind altering substances.
-continued to see a pattern with poor spelling and frustrated teachers who wanted to give me a lower grade for my sloppiness, but couldn’t because they were amused by the work (and the drawings).
-laughed at heartfelt (but horrible) attempts at poetry, elementary school journalism, and even 4th grade marketing.
-chuckled at a couple of “memoirs” that date back to high school days.

But one thing was clear as I flipped through these ancient relics of my childhood, I loved to write. And I found my voice, my life’s work, and my joy at an early age, but didn’t know it. I am so lucky to have these gifts—and to have had them with me for such a long time. I must never forget that they’ve been a part of me since practically the very beginning — and kindergarten was oh so very long ago. And I can rest easy knowing that spelling has always been an issue for me. I am not losing that gift. I never had it!

I’m trying hard not to be a packrat (I’ve already gone through many “treasures” from high school and college and whittled them down to a very few pieces that are stashed in my closet at home.) While most of this crumbling debris is destined for the recycling bin in the morning, some of it is coming back to Dallas with me as a not-so-subtle reminder that no matter what, writing is what I’m meant to do.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo features the boys:

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Stoic Guinness and anxious George anxiously await my return home • photo by Bruce

 

 

 

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Sow: signs

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Photo by Bruce

Sign of the times. Follow the signs. Here’s your sign. If you flip through my iPhoto library, you’ll see that signs frequently capture my eyes. I like ’em rusty. I like ’em slick. I LOVE them when they’re funny (at least to me). And I really love putting fun signs amongst the veggies and flowers of the Mortroski Midcentury Urban farm.

Our latest arrival is the word “Garden.” Made by a metal craftsperson, it caught Bruce’s and my eyes when we were out looking for some planters for our patio last weekend. Needless to say we never found the right pots, so the search continues. Maybe we’ll just go for some smaller format stock tanks…

Here’s the sign on the wall of the new part of the garden (Fig tree is just out of frame to the right):

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Raised bed #4 has the out of control salad greens, the power greens (kale, spinach, chard), and the rogue tomato plants. A pot of mini roses that are not doing great and a pot of mint are also in this photo. And the little wood square on the fence is a window so our little kid next door neighbors can watch the garden and the Gs. Photo by Bruce

I love how happy it is—so cheerful and fun. And the primary colors are really nice on the wood fence.

One more happy addition is our new garden owl. Not only is he a wise old welcome sign, he’s also a rain gauge (the yellow glass tube) which will be fun to see fill up during our wacky Texas downpours. Here’s hoping for rain very soon!

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Wise old rain gauge • photo by Bruce

Slowly, but surely, we’ll collect more fun stuff to brighten up the plants. I am looking forward to seeing the evolution. After all, change is the only constant, in life and in gardening.

For today’s gratuitous dog photo, I thought I’d share that Bruce informed me that the Gs are being very lazy today. Clearly Gidget needs a nap:

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So tired • photo by Bruce

Sow: incarcerated fig

The Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm isn’t just for veggies (or dogs). We’ve got three fruit trees too: a plum tree and a peach tree that came with the house and a very young fig tree I planted a couple of years ago.

Little fig tree is coming into its own this spring and when one of our Canadian visitors pointed out that she saw tiny little figs sprouting, I knew something had to be done STAT!

You see, we have roving bands of marauding grackles even though the 4Gs do their best to chase them from the yard. Those naughty birds spend a lot of time picking our neighbors’ three fig trees clean of any figs, so we needed to take action, quickly, before they realized that our little tree was chock full of yummy figgy goodies. And yes, they eat the baby figs green. Bastards.

Taking action was easy enough. Bruce went to the local big box home improvement/garden center store during his lunch break to pick up just two things to build the tiny tree’s prison: bamboo stakes and bird net. Now before you go all PETA on me about the bird net, it’s not for catching birds, it’s for covering plants so the birds won’t get in there. I have used it with great success for several years on my sad tomato experiments with no winged casualties (there was a deceased bird near the urban farm last year, but I suspect feline foul play, not bird net) and once it’s in place, the birds (and squirrels) stay away, mostly because the plants look different.

Here are a few figgy photos so you can see what I mean:

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figs galore! shot through the bird net.

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bird net close up — see the yummy tiny fig?

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the fig facility: yes, those are binder clips!

The stakes are around 4 feet high so the fig tree is still more petite than me. But unlike me, it still has the chance to get taller.

The bricks are an inelegant temporary solution. It was very windy during the install on Monday night so I thought it might not be prudent to cut the bird net then. I’m going to adjust the bird net when both Bruce and I are at home this weekend (he was in Boston during the install and I’m in California until Saturday) and then pin it down using landscaping pins for a better look.

As for the office supplies in use, I find that binder clips are very helpful on the urban farm. I use them during the cold months to secure the frost cloth to tomato cages, the lips of the stock tanks, the bars of the trellises, and even attach the ends of the frost cloth to itself. That’s why when I noticed that theses stakes were so thin that the bird net’s holes could slip down and touch the fig tree, I grabbed a few. I may concoct another solution that looks a little better, but for now, they’ll stay.

So now that the fig tree is all locked up, hopefully I’ll be able to report back in a few months with a nice big fig harvest. I’d settle for a few to eat with prosciutto and cheese or on top of a yummy salad, but my dream is to be able to make fig jam and give it as gifts. It just may be another few years. Sigh. A girl can dream.

If nothing else, fruit trees teach us patience, something we all can use in our fast paced world.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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Gidget likes to bark at the photographer. It’s almost as good as saying “cheese”.

And a special treat for today, a gratuitous business travel shot from my current home away from home (and former stomping grounds):

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San Francisco Bay Bridge

It really was as picture postcard perfect as it looks. But don’t feel too jealous: I’m about to spend my entire day today (8:30 am – 7 pm PT)  in a dark room! But still I took a quick walk at 6:00 am in the early morning fog to pick up a Peet’s Coffee at the Ferry Building. I won’t lie, trips like these make me miss the Bay Area…

 

So: Verde Camp

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photo by Simone

I’m getting ready to head back on the road again (this time for a business trip) so I thought I’d share a few photos of Verde Camp, the wonderful place where Simone and I stayed in Austin. It’s a grouping of little houses that were built in the 1930s and lovingly refurbished by a husband and wife team.

Bruce and I discovered Verde Camp in 2010 when we wanted to get away from the Big D for the weekend and see Austin. We also wanted to bring Guinness and Godiva along since we had heard Austin was super dog friendly (it is!) and thought it would be a fun trip for all of us.

We liked that it was dog-friendly and eco-friendly, plus we’d have our own little cottage with a kitchen so we could have breakfast, cocktails, and snacks. It’s in easy walking distance to lots of fun stuff: Town Lake, South Congress, the Continental Club, Homeslice Pizza, the University of Texas, the downtown area, Zilker Park, and the Capitol. It’s certainly better than a hotel in my opinion—it feels more like a vacation home or cottage up in Ontario.

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Since then we’ve been down a number of times with Guinness and Godiva, then Guinness, Godiva and George (Gidget has not made the trip yet). One time we even brought some human friends along and had a blast. I’ve always thought it would be really awesome to get a big group of friends together and rent a bunch of cottages so we could all hang out during the day but have our own spaces at night. Maybe one day—seems like it could be a fun way to celebrate a birthday….

This time Simone and I stayed in Cicada House. It’s super cute with a nice little porch and has a great loft (that’s where I slept).

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cute Cicada House • photo by Simone

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the loft and the loft dweller • photo by Simone

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the cute planter

Check out the website when you get a chance and you can see a bunch more photos and get all the details about the amenities. And if you’re ever planning a trip to Austin, definitely consider staying there. And tell ’em who sent you!

Today’s gratuitous dog photo is from our very first visit in May 2010:

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Guinness and Godiva at Verde Camp in  May 2010 • photo by Bruce

 

So: overrated fear


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Meet Julius. He’s my new BFF.

If you would have asked me about him a week ago, I would have said he was big and scary. That his giant eyeballs and enormous teeth gave me the willies. Or that he’d flip me off his back like a little fly. And I was terrified that he would toss me off his back and stomp me into the ground.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Julius was quite the gentlemen. He knew I was scared. But he took his time to get to know me and show me he wasn’t going to hurt me. And in the end, he made my first time very special. It was a very enjoyable couple of hours.

So, Julius changed my mind about horses. They’re kind of like super-sized dogs that you can ride. And now, I get to cross being brave enough to ride a horse off my bucket list. Can’t wait to do it again. Maybe on a beach with Bruce on some fancy vacation. Or maybe at a ranch in North Texas.

Clearly, my fear was overrated. Good thing I dared myself to be brave. Check that off the bucket list.

It felt like I had ridden a horse before. It was weird. Sometimes I feel the same way when I’m out messing around in the Urban Farm. Even though I haven’t done something, it feels like I have. Weird.

Here are a few photos of today’s fun in Austin with my dear friend Simone:

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so proud of myself! and Julius!

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Julius and his pals Zeke and Ranger

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beautiful ranch scenery

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looks like something out of a movie

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so serene

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ah nothing quenches fears like seeing a sign like this one

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Simone and Topper, Julie and Julius

Special thanks to Jessica and Emily at Texas Trail Rides for getting us into the saddle and on the trail. It was an excellent experience and one we will never forget.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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the 4G network likes to sun themselves • photo by Tracy

Sow: better than baking

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Ingredients for life: bok choi, mint, spinach, and salad greens


Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my neighbors. She lives in the next little town over and is another Duck Team 6 outreach volunteer (she is in charge of donation collection). And I surprised her with a big bag of produce that I picked minutes before she arrived.

Mindy and I don’t know each other. She and Bruce work more closely together so I had heard her name but never met her. But she had come by the house the night before to drop off a couple hundred pounds of donated dog food and she and her two kids had been in driveway (it’s in the backyard) and saw the Urban Farm. Bruce said the girls were really excited about the idea of growing food. He showed them how to pick a radish to take home and told Mindy that she should also throw the greens into that night’s salad (try it, it’s delicious if the greens are super fresh). He was happy that the kids showed so much interest, but didn’t think anything more of it, since our next door neighbor kids love looking at the garden too — he even cut them a window in the wood fence so they can see the garden and the Gs playing.

Well, that night, Mindy texted Bruce to say that her kids are bugging her to start a garden! They never had a vegetable so delicious! They wanted to get right to it on the weekend! Unfortunately, it’s too late for that, unless all they want to grow is Malbar spinach, okra, and black eyed peas! But they had the right idea.

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I had to do something to keep those kids loving vegetables. So I picked gallon ziplocs of bok choi, salad greens, and spinach. Threw in a bouquet of mint. And when Mindy showed up with more dog food yesterday morning, I had a nice surprise waiting for her. She was thrilled and knew the kids would be too. And I told her if she let me know when she was coming to drop off food, there was more where that came from (at least through the very hottest part of the summer).

Used to be when I wanted to make friends with a new neighbor, coworker, or volunteer, I’d bake something. I dare to say, that a big bag of just picked organic produce makes people even happier than cupcakes these days. You should see people’s faces light up when I share the bounty. I have my “regulars,” like Tracy, the lady who looks after the Gs. She also looks after the Urban Farm when we travel so it’s only fair that she gets a weekly delivery. Same with my sweet admin who makes my work life so easy and keeps me running smoothly. But dropping off a veggie treat to someone who’s not expecting it is almost more fun for me than the person receiving it. I love to hear how they enjoyed it and the recipes they made.

And now for your gratuitous dog photo of the day:

Duck Team 6 Volunteer Guinness taking guarding the donated dog food very seriously • photo by Bruce

Canine Duck Team 6 volunteer Guinness taking his job guarding donated dog food very seriously • photo by Bruce

Even if all you can grow is a tiny planter of herbs on a window sill, next time you go to dinner at a friend’s house, cut a tiny bouquet and tie it to the ubiquitous bottle of wine with a bright ribbon or rustic cord. I’ll bet you a quart of okra, you’ll get a similar reception.

 

 

 

Sow: thundershirt time

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Georgie modeling his trusty Thundershirt, closely supervised by Godiva • photo by Bruce

The last few days have been atmospherically messed up in the much of the US. Denver got snow in May. California’s got Santa Ana winds and fires burning out of control. Dallas has got cooler than usual temperatures and epic thunderstorms.

While the Urban Farm totally digs the big drinks of water (everything is ultra green) it’s been getting and it’s appreciating the break from 90°F temperatures, sweet George is not exactly a happy camper. You see, George senses every change in the weather. He’s a canine barometer. And he’s terrified of loud sounds of any kind. So Texas-sized thunder booms are not sounds he likes to hear.

This morning, he tried to hide in my closet. And he tried to sneak out the back door and go to work with me. What he really wanted to do is snuggle with someone all day long.  He pants. He paces. He freaks out. He is nothing like his usual slobbery kiss-giving snuggly self. He doesn’t make his special happy sounds. He won’t get a tennis ball. Even holding his “babies” (his stuffed toys) in his mouth doesn’t give him comfort.

But the Thundershirt does. When we know there’s stormy weather coming, George becomes a doggie burrito. We swaddle him like a newborn in his special velcro covered shirt. Maybe the other Gs laugh at him a little. He doesn’t care. He may look a little silly, but he can relax. So can we.

They have been so effective for George that several of our friends have tried them on their dogs. Would you buy a garment to help your dog relax?

Today’s gratuitous dog photo: You may remember this one from a recent post, but a goofy George picture gives you a better idea what “normal” looks like for him:

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So: the Murphster

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. You'll love the post I'll be writing about him (hint: it has a happy ending). Photo by Bruce

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. Don’t worry this post has a happy ending. Photo by Bruce

Murphy was dumped. He should have been returned. Yes, he was adopted as an adorable little ball of puppiness. He was a Duck Team 6 dog, a cute puppy that went to what Duck Team 6 thought was a nice, responsible home with people that would love him and give him a wonderful life. He was loved for a little while. But then, their life got busy. Kids came and the sweet brown and brindle dog with the expressive ears became a pain in the ass. He was, after all, still a puppy, since he was under 2 years old.

So, one of the humans he trusted dumped him. At the local kill shelter near where the family lived.

Luckily his microchip told the city shelter that he was a Duck Team 6 dog or he might not have been around in 72 hours. He was supposed to be returned to Duck Team 6 for rehoming if the family couldn’t keep him for whatever reason. Instead, like cowards, they dumped him at the shelter with vague information that didn’t provide enough information. But the microchip did. And that’s how he came to the Mortroski Midcentury Bed and Breakfast and Home for Wayward Dogs for a sweet three week vacation filled with friends, food, playtime, wrestling, napping, lots of pets from nice visitors, walks, and fun. And had we not already had four dogs, we might have found a nice G name for him.

Here are some of our favorite photos of Murphy:

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Isn’t he cute? Aren’t those ears ridiculous?

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The Murphster looks a bit like Scooby Doo. With George photo bomb.

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Sleepy buddy.

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He’s a snuggler.

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Murphy liked to try to con me out of my breakfast.

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Gidget was his best buddy.

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This is the photo that got him adopted.

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Murphy fit in the pack just fine.

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Obviously Murphy’s former family never let him on furniture.

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Learning the finer points of Squirrel TV from Guinness. Gidget supervising.

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How could anyone resist all this cuteness?

So here’s the happy ending: after the three week stay where Murphy went from scared and sad and hating the crate (he was quite the escape artist) to a well-adjusted, happy-go-lucky boy, he found a new home. One of my coworkers and her husband fell in love with him. He has a new loving family who will spoil him, give him lots of toys and plenty of walks and play time. And his new older sister dog to continue to teach him the ropes. 

Gratuitous dog photo of the day? Really? Don’t you think you’ve gotten enough dog photos for one day?

To help more dogs like Murphy, consider a donation to Duck Team 6.

Sow: voluntold

In the gardening world, there are plants known as “volunteers.” These sneaky little devils are not planted by human hand. They just show up and take root. They could be “planted” by the wind, dropped from a bird’s beak, carried by naughty squirrels moving yummy seeds to their eat later stash, or even hidden in the depths of a compost pile.

In my case, it’s possible they’re here to test my sanity, patience, and goodwill to plant-kind.

After my terrible luck with tomatoes for the last two years I vowed that I would NEVER EVER grow them again. And I meant it. Well, I guess I’ve been “voluntold” by the wind, birds, squirrels, compost or something else to grow them this spring. Maybe rejecting tomatoes will be the best thing that ever happened to my tomato farming. Teaches me to give up on a type of plant.

See, two volunteer tomato plants have appeared in Raised Bed #4, where I grew tomatoes last year. They’re nestled in between the thriving power greens: spinach, kale, and chard. Sneaky bastards. Of course, I didn’t have the heart to pull them out once I realized what they were. They’re doing quite well, flowering, growing,  and enjoying the new irrigation system. They even have nice red cages to protect them as they get bigger. Maybe if I continue to ignore them they’ll be fabulous. I can almost taste the ‘mater sandwiches now…

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Volunteer tomato #1, barging in on the spinach

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Volunteer tomato #2, crowding the kale

My other volunteers cheered me up. I was really sad when the beautiful Malabar spinach got hit by the first frost and croaked. Two little plants provided lots of people with green leafy goodness and looked so pretty covering the trellis at the back of Raised Bed #2 all summer and fall. Well, I guess it’s a perennial or it’s decided to be zombie spinach because it’s back. And it looks like it’s more determined than ever — the little plants seem to be doubling every day. Hopefully it doesn’t squeeze out my one surviving bush bean that’s just starting to get close to the trellis. Or bug the okra. But I know I’m going to be happy to have it around when North Texas’ crazy summer temperatures get too hot for regular spinach. I bet it makes great green drinks.

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Malabar spinach is back! Green drinks for everyone!

But I can’t really complain. Even though I wasn’t planning for them, these volunteers are all doing great. And they were 100% free. I’ll keep you posted on how they do.

 

Gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Godiva decided to see if Gidget’s crate was good for naps. Photo by Bruce

So: back in the infinite game

Hello again! I’ve missed you. No, really, I have. I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass like that long lost high school boyfriend that finally connected with you on Facebook a few days before your 2oth reunion. I don’t need to know if you still love me after all this time. That’s because I don’t have any guilt about breaking your 15 year old heart or not taking you to the prom, because that’s not what we have.

However, I do have a twinge of guilt for not writing a damn thing since March 19, despite polite prodding from friends near and far (sorry, Laura, I’ve been very lazy lately!). I finally realized today just how much I’ve missed my little virtual soapbox and the nice folks who’ve been entertained enough by my (mis)adventures to share their thoughts, kudos, feedback, and other comments with me.

So welcome back! And thanks for considering my little piece of the blog-o-sphere worthy entertainment for your weekend.

I won’t bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say, there was a disruption in the force and I was missing a critical factor. Call it schedule. Call it habit. Call it routine. Whatever it is, I need that magical ingredient, because without it, I have no discipline for posting in a timely fashion.

Something else kept stealing my time/energy/sleeping hours/brainpower/writing ability/goodwill. I could blame any of the following characters that live in my personal time vortex: Any of the 4Gs. Work. Volunteer work. Visitors. Foster dog. Bruce. Growing stuff. Picking stuff. TV. Books. Magazines. Cooking. Eating. Grocery shopping. Cleaning. Landscaping. Chilling out with a glass of wine. Work writing. Florida. Spontaneous adventures. The BigFix for Big D. Rotten allergies. Writing letters. Making plans. Rashes and being really, really itchy. Visiting friends. Creating travel itineraries. Dinner parties. Pinterest. Washington DC. Concerts. Facebook. Organizing. Making love connections. Checking stuff off my to do list. Doing nothing. (I know, that last one really isn’t that believable, but honestly, doing nothing was sucking up a lot of time.)

You get the picture. My well was a bit empty and yet, even rest, different activities, or a change of scenery wasn’t replenishing it.  That’s because rest or downtime really wasn’t the answer. But I didn’t know what was.

So this morning, while I was drinking my breakfast, I read Seth Godin’s latest post.

Green drink made from pineapple, apple, pear, homegrown spinach/kale/chard

Bruce tested, George approved breakfast green drink made from pineapple, apple, pear, banana, homegrown spinach/kale/chard. Photo by Bruce.

(Did you read it? I hope you did. It’s short and sweet, like me when I’m at my best.)

Thanks for the kick in the ass, Seth. I don’t even know you but your blog makes me think. Thanks to Hilton for introducing me to it.

So it’s time to get back into the infinite game. And put my thoughts out there no matter if the post is a photo, a quote, a story, or one of my long-ass descriptions of the mundane. I’ve missed doing it, more than I thought.

And yes, I’m going to deal with the one post that I’ve been writing in my mind for several months now. It’s blocked me a bit because I want it to be appropriate. But now I have a date to publish it in mind. A deadline (which is an interesting turn of phrase since the post is about a person who is no longer living).

You can take the girl out of advertising, but you can’t take the advertising out of the girl.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo (because George photobombing his own photo isn’t epic enough):

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. You'll love the post I'll be writing about him (hint: it has a happy ending). Photo by Bruce

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. You’ll love the post I’ll be writing about him (hint: it has a happy ending). Photo by Bruce

And a new seasonal feature — today’s gratuitous garden photo:

 

French Breakfast radishes! Yield is now up to 66 with more still on the way

French Breakfast radishes! Yield is now up to 66 with more still on the way. The Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm has been producing so much good stuff this spring. Anyone know if I have time to reseed and get another ton of radishes before it gets too hot?