Nurture and Nature

With all the busy-ness, drama, peril, stress and discombobulation of the past weeks, months, years, I’ve been out of sync with my universe. This statement is probably one of the biggest understatements of my life.

Places to live usually just fall on me.

Three things ground and root me: friends and family, nesting and gardening, writing and creating. This great triumvirate of my life has been stripped of power for far too long and it is with great joy that HMO’Keefe’s arrival in West Virginia has put them back into office.

He and I have had separate lives that intersected too infrequently. We anticipated that blending our lives would create some flash points in terms of turf wars. My beloved barn is so much mine, we both feared the time it would take for it to feel like his while I adjusted to what might feel like his encroachment into my space would be uncomfortable for us both. This is one of the perils of independent, old folks moving in together. For this reason and several others which are actually more important, HMOKeefe and I have taken a pied-a-terre in town where we will live during the work week retiring to the country estate on the weekends.  🙂

[I find it completely ridiculous that I have a home in the “city” and a “country house” – I have yet to refer to either without feeling pretentious.]


I had great fun and great stress finding an apartment. I have never looked for a place to live before. Like the Wicked Witch of the East, houses just seemed to fall on me. I started this project eager and anticipating the process to be a big bunch of fun.

I approached the task of finding the pied-a-terre in a logical fashion. I created a wish list which included the neighborhood I wanted. Then I stalked that neighborhood, classified ads, real estate magazines, and Craigslist.

What people pay for rental property in Hooterville was a great shock to me. My optimism plummeted with every phone call not returned by a landlord, with every walk-through a roach motel and every apartment with no laundry facilities. [We are too old to be schlepping to the laundromat.] Finding a place for grownups to live in a college town is pretty damn difficult.

And, yet, my timing was perfect. I opened Craigslist at the very right second. I called the landlord at the very right second. I raced over to see the apartment at the very right second. And within 10 minutes of walking in the door, I was shouting “It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s perfect, I’ll take it!”

The apartment hit every bullet point on the wish list except one (ground floor). It is just beeee-youuuuuuuuuuuuu-tiiiiiiiii-fullllllllllllllllllllll. I’ve been consumed with ideas for decorating, furniture arrangements, and color schemes while simultaneously restoring order to the Barn. I have been up to my neck in domestic nesting.

I love BOGO!

The garden, alas, was neglected. The harsh winter, endless spring rains and real estate flitting translated into an eyesore of a garden.

Yesterday and today I ran around home improvement centers and nurseries buying bedraggled, late-season annuals to effect a quick aesthetic fix. I ran into a buy-one-get-one sale that went a long way to improving the garden. I ran out of time to get all the little (some of them sad) plants into the ground, but my equanimity has the warm fuzzies with the little bit I have done. I neeeeeeeeddddddddd to have my hands in dirt.

Instant Garden

Now that HMOKeefe is here and is a tiny bit settled in (we have yet to begin the task of moving into the apartment), I’ve had some time to reconnect with friends. Last night, I sat in a dear friend’s garden with more dear friends. We played with twinkle lights, ate good food, drank cheap wine and had a fine time. These gatherings are dubbed “sisterings” and more than a decade ago, I helped to establish sisterings as a Friday night tradition. The craziness of my life has been such that I haven’t been able to attend with any regularity for years now. That sad state of affairs is coming to an end.

Twinkle Lights and Wine

So, I’ve had time with my True Love, time with my friends, and tomorrow I trundle off to Charlotte to take my Baby Boy to dinner to celebrate his birthday. Throughout this week and weekend I have taken photos to bear witness. I’ve come to really enjoy the creative aspect of photo editing. I’ve written blog posts this week. I’ve nested, gardened, nurtured and created. I’ve hit all of my pulse points and life is good.

I had intended on posting way back in January that the slogan for this year was Almost Heaven in 2011. We’re about half-way through the year and things are on track.

I’ve also been remiss in acknowledging an award. Back in April (more than a month after my last blog post), I received email telling me my blog had been named one of the best West Virginia sites. In bestowing the award, The Very Best Sites wrote,

W.Va. Fur and Root is a self-proclaimed “hillbilly diva’s” blog (or, as she says, “blatherings”). Connie writes about whatever she wants, thank-you-very-much, and the title of her website comes from a sign that came with her old home, which she says is pretty much an old barn. She talks about nesting in that great old structure, but also talks about current events, TV, music, and pretty much whatever comes to mind. With terms like “Agog-O-Meter” I find her particularly fun to read, and so will you. She hasn’t posted in about a month, which I guess is because she is busy gardening, but read her older posts for a taste of something special.

As I think I’ve explained, I haven’t been busy gardening, but I have been busy. I’m very honored to have been listed as one of the best particularly in light of the other sites listed – many of them are favorites of mine and have characteristics that are goals for my blog.

It’s going to be a good summer. I’m sure of it.

Kreativ Blogger Award

The Kreativ Blogger Award was bestowed upon me some weeks ago and I have been remiss in acknowledging it.  Yes, I’m ashamed of myself, but the rules for acceptance are, in part, responsible for the delay.

The rules for accepting the award are:

1. You must thank the person who has given you the award.

Roger, luv? Thank you, thank you. My self-esteem has taken a lot of hits the past few months and recognition of any sort is welcome, but recognition for the one creative outlet I make time for means all the world. It was a good day when you stumbled onto my blog.  Please accept my apologies for the delay in acknowledging it.  In truth, it took me awhile to think of 7 interesting things about me that I was willing to share. 

2. Copy the award logo and place it on your blog.

Woo Hoo! I love a bright, shiny award jpg in the morning.  i think I’ve managed to get it over there –>

3. Link the person who has nominated you for the award.

Roger’s site is a lot of fun – lots of interesting reading there. It’s well worth spending some time at.

4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

I have known all the words to J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers The Last Kiss since I was 12 years old – decades before Pearl Jam eviscerated it. I was never much of a Pearl Jam fan, but torturing one of my favorite songs didn’t help matters much. When The Ex and I were dating I discovered that he too knew all the words – it was one of the reasons I married him.

I read a lot. When my life is normal, I average two novels a week. I’m not much of a nonfiction fan. Periodically, I skip the well-crafted, well-written, make-me-jealous-of-the-talent novels and dive into a romantic mystery. As far as I’m concerned, this genre peaked in the late 60s, early 70s. Think Susan Howatch’s The Dark Shore or any of Victoria Holt’s stuff.

I love period movies – it doesn’t matter how bad they are as long as the scenery and costuming are luscious. My first one was Barry Lyndon and I was certainly too young (12, again) to be watching it. The latest one I watched was The Madness of King George.

Since the wizened age of 8, I have been entranced with aquariums. My first experience was with two goldfish named Queen Liliuokalani and King Kamehameha in a large bowl. The King died almost immediately and the Queen died of grief shortly thereafter.

Periodically, I set up an aquarium, stock it with fish (usually angels) and kill them in short order. It’s a mystery – I do all the right things and the varmints still die. I vowed that when I retired, I was going to set up a huge saltwater aquarium and raise seahorses. Then I read about keeping seahorses. Sheesh. They’d be dead before I even got them. The amount of fussing they need is way beyond my abilities.

I love going out to lunch. In the interest of financial prudence I don’t do it much these days, but I sure do miss it. Tom Robbins summed it up best:

L-U-N-C-H. Lunch. I’m fond of lunch. I am, in fact, a lunch aficionado. Give me liberty or give me lunch. Breakfast comes around too early in the day, and dinner can interfere with one’s plans for the evening, but lunch is right on the money, the only thing it interrupts is work. . .I require lunch on a daily basis. I’m insured against non-lunch by Blue Cross, Blue Shield, and blue Cheese. Finicky? Not his luncher….I become grumpy when denied my noontide repast.

I have wanted to change my first name since I was 17 or so. In fact, I had planned to do so as soon as I turned 18, but upon further reflection decided it would be insulting to my parents. My name was a compromise: Dad wanted Monique and Mom wanted Consuela. I have never felt like a Connie and while I’ve spent fifty years with the name, I still don’t think it suits me. These days, I’m still pondering whether to take back my maiden name or keep the name I’ve been using for 25+ years. During flights of fancy, I think about changing both first and last names to something. . . um. . . else. I can never come up with anything. I suppose I could become The Woman Formerly Known as Connie.

I like oatmeal. I like oatmeal raw. Just the flakes. In a bowl. I keep oatmeal at the office along with a bowl and a spoon. Often, my lunch (see above) is oatmeal flakes. My cholesterol levels should be in negative numbers. Go figure.

One of my first acts in the morning is to fire up the Yahoo News site and click on the Most Popular tab. Up comes the news articles that have had the most hits, have been recommended to others the most or have been emailed the most often. This is my personal barometer of what people are interested in. Most days it’s depressing. Today for example, one of the most recommended news stories is the startling information that Rush Limbaugh is getting married. (That poor woman.)

5. Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers.

I am so behind in my blog reading and subsequently haven’t discovered any new blogs lately. Every person on my blogroll (links in the sidebar) deserves the award. Every single one of them. They’re there because I think they’re good. So, I hereby award each and everyone of them the Kreativ Blogger Award.

Besides handing the award to all those folks, I’d like to hand the award to those of you who think you might want to blog, but just haven’t taken the plunge. Get at it! It’s a big bunch of fun and the perfect creative outlet – it doesn’t take up space, create a mess, or cost anything. Everything you need to get started is at:

6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

If I’ve encouraged anyone to take the plunge, send me your link and I’ll post it.

7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.

I haven’t done this yet, but I intend to.

Over the Top Award

over_the_top_awardI have been remiss in fulfilling my obligations for the Over the Top Award. My reasons are three-fold: (1) I am so very behind in my blog reading; and (2) many of the folks I would give the award to already have it; and, (3) of those who don’t, narrowing things down to just six people means I would have to leave someone out which seems such a junior-high-clique-ish thing to do.

What I would prefer to do, and what I’m going to do, is run through my newly cleaned up blog list and mention what it is I find so fascinating about each. Each and every one deserves the award.  Alphabetically:

Blind Pig & the Acorn If nothing else, the music that plays when you hit the link is worth the click. I’m passionate about the celebration of Appalachian heritage and this blog is Over the Top in that respect.

And then there’s Cosanostradamus over at Blog Me No Blogs. He’s completely Over the Top. Writing on a variety of subjects with a decided left-leaning slant, I am appreciative of his commitment to honoring bloggers through his Cosie Awards. He’s definitely worth a visit.

Of course, there’s the incomparable, amazing, and scintillating Buzzardbilly who gave me this award to pass on. I am so enamored of her blog, that I’ve proposed marriage. BB also celebrates the Appalachian heritage, but her real forte is ranting and raving about the negative imposition of the hillbilly stereotype. Recently, she’s been writing a lot about music which is important to her soul. I miss her scathing analyses of the evil done to us by folks’ insistence on applying sweeping, untrue generalizations to all the individuals of this region – some of us who wear the hillbilly label proudly.

Chickens in the Road is another celebration of our traditional life. At this moment, Suzanne is writing about cast iron. If I were going to pick a symbol for Appalachian resiliency, it would be cast iron. We are forged in fire, seasoned after years of hard work, and worth our weight in gold.

Alex over at Clicks and Pops writes about music. Developing an album addiction as a young man, Alex is good for writing about the trivia and features of the music many of us grew up with (and love still). His knowledge about the music, the artists, and their accompanying zeitgeist is deep and wide ( my lame attempt at a musical pun) – not to mention Over the Top.

Creating Utopia also welcomes you with music and the best of Appalachia. This blog details efforts at horse rescue. It can be heart-breaking, but more often it’s inspiring. So many creatures are mistreated and it’s satisfying to see them thrive with love and attention. While horse rescue is the specialty, lots of other animals are presented. I’ve wanted a horse for a long time and someday I will have one. I’ve now decided that when I can accommodate such, the horse needs to be a rescue – thanks to this blog.

Esse Diem is a blog like mine – a little of this and a little of that. Living in West Virginia, she reminds me a little of my younger self. I wish she’d post more often, but then some people say that about me. Dynamic women have busy lives.

Evil Twin’s Wife over at The Glamorous Life of a Hausfrau lives not too far from me, but we’ve never met. As the title indicates, she’s a “housewife” that details her daily life as wife and mother. She occasionally talks about the multiple sclerosis that doesn’t slow her down a bit.

Garden Rant is a must-read for gardeners. Focusing on sustainable gardening, it also features real gardens – not the overly manicured, chemically-ridden “perfect” vistas we so much of on the web and in magazines. Be sure to read the manifesto.

Granny Sue is a storyteller in the Appalachian tradition and shares her experiences living here and loving here. While her prose is wonderful, I particularly like her photo-essays. Her gardens, her critters, and her sense of humor are a good way to start my morning.

I don’t know what to say about Huh? The Blonde Goddess is Confused. I’m not sure if Buzzard Billy or The Blonde Goddess is more Over the Top. Both are outrageous and apt to say something that provokes the spewing of beverages all over the computer screen.

Incurable Logophilia is a must read for those of us with an abiding love of books (and words). I don’t get over there as much as I should and I regret that.

Janis over Juanuchis’ Way irritates me to no end. She really, really must (and I mean it) write more often. If I ever get to meet her, I’m going to flog her for not writing.

Jamie’s Life’s a Feast blog is a food-lover’s paradise. If you wander over there, be prepared for luscious photographs and mouth-watering descriptions of food, with an emphasis on baking. Also, be prepared for some fine story-telling.

Possum Lane at My Little Corner of the World is another diverse blog about daily life. Currently, she’s talking about the gifts in her life. This too is a blog I don’t read as often as I should. Shame on me.

O>w/hole>1 defies description. He specializes in concise comments and links. With a wry humor and soupcon of sarcasm, he’ll take you all over the web.

Rick Lee’s photo blog is a visual delight. I’m particularly fond of his Thursday night produce shopping photos. How he can take the mundane and make it seem extraordinary is a great gift. Right now he has cauliflower and other vegetable wonders.

Sagacious Hillbilly is another blogger that defies description. He’s so Over the Top I don’t know where to begin. I can’t decide if his blog is more outrageous or his comments on my blog. Currently, he’s suggesting I photograph myself in boots and a garter belt and post it. [Ummmm, no.]

Six Forty-Five is the blog I set up for my Chef Boy’R Mine’s 24th birthday. I’m thinking if I give him an award, he’ll post more often. He has a gift for words and he’s living an extraordinary life. He needs to share it – at least with me – through a blog with lots of pictures – dammit!

speak You’re bRanes features commentary on actual comments made on the web. It’s hilarious and soooooo Over the Top. Really, trust me, this will make you laugh until you cry – unless you’re stunned by the militant ignorance sweeping the world.

Unclutterer is a minimalist, de-junk and streamline your life blog. I find it to be inspiring in my continued quest to pare down my stuff to only that which I love. In fact, it’s the site that got me started and keeps me motivated.

Vera’s Weblog is a nice read about self-sufficient living in Minnesota. Vera is a German transplant and has an interesting perspective about life in the states. She, too, doesn’t post as often as I’d like.

Verbotomy is a word lover’s paradise – especially if you love coining new words and defining them. This blog is also good for the first chuckle of the day.

Jim over at Wabi-Sabi is a colleague and his blog focuses on politics and his family life. I love, absolutely love, how much he loves being a dad, a husband, and a progressive.

And so, these are my nominations for the Over the Top Award. Those of you willing to pass it on, feel free to grab it and wear the award proudly on your site. I hate the “grab-if-you-want-it” bestowing of awards, but, truthfully, I can’t pick just six and I’m only doing it this way because I can’t make you accept and follow the rules of acceptance.

Really, these are my favorites and I do a lot of blog surfing. Enjoy! And thank-you, Buzzardbilly, for the Over the Top Award. I love, and appreciate, any and all recognition for my attempts at sharing my life.

Over the Top Award for Me, Me, Me (and some of you)

over_the_top_awardHot damn and cold succotash! For the price of answering a few questions in one word or less (more if I cheat like Buzzard Billy), I can have the Over the Top Award. I love awards – they make my Warm Fuzzies sweat.

Buzzard Billy, whom I’m determined to meet (we’re soulmates even if she doesn’t think so), received the award and tantalized me with the possibility of getting it. Woo Hoo! I can only get it by contributing to the meme with one-word answers to 35 questions. (That sucker is mine. Mine, mine, mine.) The complete rules are as follows:

Copy and change the answers to suit you and pass it on.

•Answers may be one word only.

•Once you have filled it out be sure to pass it on to 6 of your favorite bloggers.

•Alert them that they have been awarded!

•Have fun!

1. Where is your cell phone? Buried

Yes.  It does weigh 50 lbs.

Yes. It does weigh 50 lbs.

I normally do not carry a purse purse, but something so big as to veer toward satchel status. Last spring I decided once again to try the Small Purse Experiment. It’s lasted longer than ever, but due to recent events, I gave in and returned to the Briefcase Disguised as a purse. HMOKeefe and I scoured Boston in search of it – primarily as a means to get home the laptop he gave me for my birthday in 2008.

I’ve always been a big purse person. As a teenager, my first purse was a giant carpetbag tapestry kind of thing. While I never use 99% of it, I’m not comfortable unless I’m carrying everything I own with me. Chief of these is my agenda – a large binder containing all the paper of my life – bills, calendars, cards, fortunes, amusing horoscopes, and a medicine bag that detached just yesterday.

Though there is a designated pocket, I most never use it. Without fail, the cell phone migrates to the bottom.

2. Your hair? Flamboyant

My hair. Other than my height, it’s probably my most distinguishing feature. Waist length, dark brown, straight as a devout Christian, and becoming streaked with white and silver. Folks seem to want me to dye it. I, however, love the white and silver. At my temples, I have white streaks that now extend to the very ends of my hair. In the Cherokee tradition, these are termed wisdom locks. In others, they’re witch’s locks. Take your pick.  Note:  I meant straight in the sense of moral, free of really bad vices – you know – the old straight and narrow.  I know several devout Christians of various sexual orientations.  Viva la difference!)

3. Your mother? Resilient

Barefoot in West Virginia

Barefoot in West Virginia

My mom is a marvel. After a miserable childhood, she managed to become a dynamic woman. At 69, she wears pink chucks, kayaks, and plays with power tools. I oscillate between being thrilled and aghast that the older I get the more like my mother I become. (I wear black chucks, but I’ve been pining for red ones – no kayak yet, but it’s more appealing than it once was.)

4. Your father? Amazing

After a childhood even more horrific than Mom’s, Dad is alive and kicking – no mean feat given four tours of Viet Nam. Presently, he’s developed a walking addiction. After two knee replacement surgeries and damage done in a car wreck when he was 8 (and his father was killed), Dad is walking at least 7 miles a day on terrain that is extremely hilly. He expects to make 1500 miles by the end of the year. Did I mention he’s 71? Continue reading