Saturday, June 23, 2018

An Epiphany of Sorts

I haven’t been posting or writing very much in the past few weeks.  First, there was the usual end-of-school busyness (this time on steroids because JT was also graduating).  Then there were celebrations and a week of family in town.  Then JT left town for a week, the first of three trips he’ll make this summer before he goes to college on August 19.  It isn’t as if I have nothing to say; quite the reverse, in fact.  But my feelings felt like they need to be kept in check lest they overwhelm or cripple me.  

For my whole life, I’ve wanted to be a mother.  When I became pregnant at the age of 32, it felt like an amazing miracle of science.  I was thrilled.  Being a mama hasn’t always been easy, especially the years of being a mama-on-her-own, but motherhood was nearly always the joy I expected.  I relished every stage as JT grew up.  I ultimately chose a career that made it easier to be a parent and though I sometimes grumbled, I always liked being a mama.  From little league games and mother’s day tea to 8th grade plays and cross country championships to every school event in between, I was there.  And then I did the laundry, made supper, and headed off to the next event.  I was sometimes exhausted, but I always liked it.

The next chapter of life promises to be different.   JT will be 180 miles north of home and he won’t rest his head in my house every night.  I’ve carefully accumulated the bedding to feather his nest with the pleasing thought that I am making plans to keep him rested and cozy as he makes this transition.  T and I will head off for the weekends to watch him run as often as we can, but there will also be time for our own adventures.  I think things will be less frantic for us.  I’m still wrapping my mind about what it all means.

Unless you count Lucy squawking her displeasure (and I don’t), this last week has been quiet at my house.  There has been less laundry and the house is clean; supper is served when I’m ready to make it.  T and I have had conversations with no interruptions.  I’ve been busy and happy and my text exchanges with JT have been funny and frequent enough to please an anxious mama.

I don’t quite know what I  expected, but it’s been fine.  Nice, even.  I thought of this as I refashioned a bouquet and placed it in an antique Mason jar on the radiator cover in the front window.  I haven’t placed bouquets in this place in this house and I was wondering why when I realized that for years, there was a busy and indelicate boy running around and slamming the doors.  Glass jars with flowers located in vulnerable places seemed unwise.

But now it is safe for glass jars to be in vulnerable places.  And while that’s different than the happiness of being a full-time mama, it is happy.  I expect that this next chapter will still have some bumps (and tears).   But for now, I’m more excited than anxious and that’s a nice place to be.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

An Updated Porch

I’ve been planning to refresh the paint on my front porch for more than a year but the chore always felt like it could wait.  So it did.  In advance of the party we threw to celebrate JT’s graduation, I really wanted the porch painted.  For various reasons, the job waited.  And so in true Sassafras-fashion, I spent the last week of school (the week before graduation) getting after the job.

First I painted the porch floor, taking care to put some extra coats of paint on the newer section of the porch by the steps.

I got after the trim, including what seemed like dozens and dozens of intricate spindles.  I bit off almost more than I could chew and did it on purpose, knowing that once I started, I would have to finish.

To be honest, it was exhausting.  And since it happened while regular school was in session and JT had his end-of-the-year athletic celebration and then prom night, I did the job in pieces.  I started on a Sunday and finished on Thursday evening, with just enough time for the paint to dry before my parents arrived on the Friday before graduation.


It turned out beautifully and now that school has ended, I’m out here whenever I have a free moment.  That’s happy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

June Front Porch

The June front porch is cheerful and happy, with plenty of flowers and plants.  In the evening, there are twinkling fairy lights on the table and in the shefflura tree.

There’s a new flag to welcome us home; it’s a Mother’s Day gift from T and JT that joins the hanging fuschia baskets T gave me.  Both seem just perfect for me; a reminder that I am loved.

The wreath on the door welcomes summer days.

Thanks to the fresh paint job, it’s more welcoming than ever.  This front porch is a happy place for both morning coffee and evening iced tea.  In the warm weather months, it’s my favorite room in the house.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Spoiled Rotten

At some point this past Winter, our incredibly patient office manager T gently suggested that she create a special box for my mail.  I had grown accustomed to treating my work mailbox as a locker of sorts and it was crammed full of mail.  When T recommended a large box of my own to supplement the modest mailbox, I realized that she’d had enough of my nonsense.  Though she would never say it out loud, my mailbox malfeasance was driving her mad. 

So I vowed to clean out my mailbox and did so that afternoon.  Subsequently, I kept it tidy and, once the habit was established, I began to brag about my clean mailbox.  Then I began to demand that my efforts be awarded.  After our Middle School closing, a ceremony where we hand out awards to a few students, I complained that I had not received my award.

I figured that the amazing T would print me a fancy-looking certificate from her magical office computer. I would humbly accept, pin it on my bulletin board, and brag loudly.  We’d all laugh.

Today, when I arrived at school, my boss and T were in the office and my boss was loudly thanking T for his award, a basket filled with treats and a sign that read “1st Place Clean Mailbox Competition.”  He was holding the basket and pointing to his cleaned out mailbox.

Come to find out, I did receive an award, a metal tray that T filled with treats that I neither earned nor deserve.  It’s amazing and lovely, a treat I find very pleasing.

I’m spoiled rotten by the most amazing co-workers anyone could possibly have.  And my mailbox remains tidy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


My parents flew into town on the Friday before JT’s graduation, on the heels of my nephew S’s own high school graduation.   They were here to celebrate with us and they were proud.

We were joined by KO and S, who made the celebration that much sweeter.

There were flowers and fairy lights to go with the cake.

It was a celebration with laughter, joy, and a few tears.

That’s happy!

Monday, June 11, 2018

15 Years and a Lifetime

JT has been a student at our school, Rutgers Prep, since he was three years old.  I started teaching at our school in 2002; he started pre-K the next year.  So for the better part of 16 years, we’ve been at our school together.   For so many of those years, I simply took it for granted that we’d go to school together.  Because that’s what we did; we went to school together.

On Sunday, we went to our last school event together, JT’s graduation.  As I had done for every other graduation at this school, I sat with the faculty as part of the event.  I suppose I could have asked to sit in the audience with my family, but it seemed fitting that I witness this ceremony as I had seen so many others.  I reflected on the passage as time.  What started as a little boy holding my hand and walking across campus to class came to a lovely close on Sunday, as my young man received his diploma from the only school he’s ever been to from people he's known for his whole life.

In the lexicon of our school, JT is a “lifer” who has been at the school for all of his education.  In our lives, it’s meant that he graduated in the company of friends, some of whom have been his friends for all of the time he can remember.

The day was sweet and emotional; a culmination of both a busy week of celebrations and lots of memories as I paused to consider how fast the last 15 years have flown past.  I am now the mama of an 18 year old who is ready to head off to college.  I’m proud and excited and a little nervous as we prepare to open the next chapter of our lives.

But mostly I’m feeling lucky and blessed.  

Thursday, June 07, 2018


JT and A headed off to the Prom last night.  At the various pre-Prom events, I made a load of pictures because that’s what you do when your son dresses up in a tux.

They were lovely and happy.

The evening was splendidly beautiful.

Come to think of it, so were the kids.

It’s an emotional week for me as my boy graduates from the school he’s called home for 15 years.  I’m trying to live in the moment and enjoy it all.  He’s looking pretty grown up these days, so I suppose it’s time.  But wow, where did the time go?

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Final Bullpen

Every Sunday evening , I set out the clothes I will wear for the week.  During the weekend, I do laundry and otherwise get everything prepared for the coming week.  Then, on Sunday night, I iron and hang the week’s clothes on the door of my closet.  I call the assortment my bullpen and I organize it to make my weekday mornings less chaotic.  As the week unfolds, the bullpen empties.  Then, Friday morning arrives and I put on the last of the week’s clothes, mentally celebrating the weekend that’s now at hand.

This practice has been my habit for as long as I’ve had a 9-5 job.  I like the organization and comfort of the routine.  And I especially love the last bullpen of the school year, which signifies that summer relaxation is at hand.  Strictly speaking, because of my assistant principal gig, I still work in the summer months.  But it’s a relaxed flip flop-wearing dress code and I do not iron summer clothes.  

The last bullpen of the school year was made ready last night.  

The iron is put away for the coming months and my toes are getting ready for the flip flop days to come.  That’s happy!

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Field Day

On Friday, we held our annual Middle School Field Day.  The night before, as JT and I were reviewing the weekend’s events, I mentioned the coming day.  He began to reminisce about how much he loved the annual Field Day, which happened every year in the closing weeks of school.  As his 15th (and final!)  year at our school has begun to close out, JT has had plenty of memories to sort through.  Many have been happy, but none have been as joyous as remembering Field Day.

To say that JT loved Field Day is an understatement.  Over the years, the two things he always loved about school were recess and Gym class. In Field Day, he found an entire day devoted to those two things.  It was JT-heaven.  He planned for the day with the precision of General Eisenhower organizing D-Day.

He’d bring sunscreen, a lunch, and a small cooler filled with ice, water bottles, and his yearly bottle of Gatorade.  We’re an over-heating people, so JT’s cooler also had wet paper towels, carefully folded, slipped into ziplock bags, and laid on the ice.  Preparation for Field Day was a precision operation.   He went with generous  supplies.

He returned at the end of the day bathed in dirt and sweat, as happy as a boy could possibly be.

T’s last Field Day was in 8th grade; these days he goes to Tough Mudder races with his friends.  And he heads off to those with a carefully packed gym bag and a precision plan.

The signs were there all along.

Friday, June 01, 2018

June 1: Garden Hostas

May was a busy month of blooms, thanks to abundant sunlight and rain.   My hosta beds rather led the way.   In the front yard, the addition of these elephant-leafed variegated hostas has been a treat.  They remind me of some hostas I saw in Sweden in 2014 and I admire them every morning.

This flowerbed has been a two year project and I am delighted by it every day.

In the backyard, the hostas along the garage have filled in the flower bed in which they rest quietly all Winter.

By the back deck, there are more hostas.  

I transplanted some hostas to this line along the west edge of my house.  The bed needs some mulch but is otherwise growing quite nicely.

Perhaps this more mature assortment also alongside the house provided inspiration?

I first began to admire hostas when I lived in Nashville.  To have so many of my own is a treat I never grow tired of enjoying.  That’s happy!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

May Book Report:

I’ve an enduring fondness for all things English.  Set your novel in the English countryside and I can just about guarantee that I will pick up the book.  This month’s read met all my requirements for a happy read: Helen Simonson's The Summer Before the War is set in the English countryside in the summer of 1914, in the expectant months after the Archduke Ferdinand has been assassinated and just before the European continent goes to all-out war.  

The book begins as the story of an independent young woman, Beatrice, as she seeks to make her own way in the world by working as a Latin teacher in the small English town of Rye.  Beset less by her own doubts than the sexism of a society that treats unmarried young woman as a problem to be solved, her independence seems to flummox her family and most of the small town.

She finds an advocate in the form of one of the school supporters, an independent-minded middle-aged woman named Agatha.  As the summer wanes and the town makes preparation for war, Beatrice finds her way forward as both a school teacher and an independent woman.  I found this book to be an easy read.  There were some sparkling moments, especially the early reflections on women and the struggle for rights at the start of the 20th century, but it wasn’t exceptional so much as it was good; a nice read for the end of the long and busy days of May.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Impatiens and Impatience

The first warm days of the season find me impatient to be outside, as if this time is fleeting and I need to soak up the easy days before they disappear.  Then I realize that it’s May and I have several months of warm, easy days ahead of me.  My urgency eases., though I still appreciate the lovely that is May.  I linger on the front porch to admire the flowers.

May, I am charmed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


When I moved into Sassafras House, there were large and established rhododendrons on either side of the porch.  Last year, the rhododendron on the west side began to look a bit peaked.  By March, the verdict was in: the rhododendron had died.  I mourned for a bit but as Spring began its tentative arrival, it seemed clear that I must take action.  On the last weekend in April, T and I cut out the dead plant and replaced it with a new rhododendron.

We also staked up the rhododendron on the other side of the stairs, to give it space and make it easier to walk up to the house.  Since then, things have looked quite splendid on both sides of the steps.  the older rhododendron is having its usual splendid Spring.  

The new rhododendron is getting after some pretty impressive growth of its own.  It may never catch up, but it’s making quite an effort, urged on by my impressive peony.

My front steps are welcoming.  That’s happy!