Monday, March 28, 2011

Hit the decks running ....

A couple of days ago I didn't have a chance to eat breakfast until 11:30. Very bad for the metabolism, I know. Weeks of deck construction and landscaping means I hit the decks running every morning.  A whole lotta stuff's been going on out there; power saws, nail guns, pick-ups in the driveway, a bobcat shoving dirt around, 3 dogs barking at the workers ....
Chris & Ed, my new BFFs
My usual peaceful ritual to start my day ... reading the newspaper over a nice breakfast ... gone. Replaced by my new ritual which is to wipe down dirty dog Louis several times a day, who loves to roll around in all this exciting new dirt. So I wolfed down some cereal on the run but in my haste to rush out again to water 80 drooping new plants, the bowl dropped to the floor where it shattered everywhere. Grrrrrr. How I wish this back yard project would be over.
Alrighty. Got the bitching out of the way. The rest is all fabulous! It IS almost done and it's beautiful! Come along and see.

Our beautiful deck, patio and surrounding landscape were all designed by the most talented landscape architect team of all time ... who also happen to be my cousin and his wife; Steve and Katherine. (They also happen to live right across the road from us, and how they arrived there is another incredible story in itself. I'll tell ya sometime. ) Their supervision and hard work on this project has been so appreciated! We're all decked out!

When this concrete slab was poured for the stone patio, Louis ran through it, then onto the deck with cement-y paws. Grrrrrr.

Getting there.......

The deck is finished and the furniture arrives .....

We love the chevron pattern Steve & Katherine designed for the overhead.
Even though we aren't finished with the landscape portion of the plan, we couldn't wait to christen the deck over the weekend. Steaks and Shiner Bocks were in order.

The lighting is awesome ... it's in the risers of the steps, the overhead and the trees.
(left to right) Katherine, my hubby Mike, Steve, and friend and neighbor Jane

It's all been so worth it. We've gone from insanity to Zen. Well, almost.
(But somehow I think my troubles aren't over.)



Final, final photos to follow .... once the beds are mulched and Steve and Katherine have added their artful touch with potted plant arrangements on the deck. Heaven!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Here Comes the Bride

Rascally rescue dog Louis chewed a substantial hole in dachshund Rosemary's blanket and somehow, during the self-swaddling process known to doxies, Rosemary managed to work her little head through that hole. When nature called, I found her at the door asking to go out ... wearing this long trailing cape, not unlike Princess Di's wedding gown. Just not quite as regal, what with the fleecy fabric and doggie silhouettes and all.

That was a good one. We've seen this blanket used as an accessory in a variety of ways; as a saddle when she leaves her bed and wanders about the house with it on her back, as a Mother Teresa look-alike when she pops up with it draped about her head ... but never before as this lovely bridal wear.

The other day a Facebook friend wrote that nothing seems to draw the comments like a post about dogs. Ain't it the truth.

We love to talk about our dogs. They grab our hearts like no one can. Their love is pure, the devotion is 1000%, and their antics are hilarious. Even the naughty antics are forgiven because there is no harm intended. Besides, we love them so.

On the worst of days, how can you not laugh when you see something like this? Dogs are our little clowns who melt our hearts and brighten our days. And if you were to ask Rosemary if she loves her Mama undeniably, she would say.....


P.S. An example of self-swaddling. I swear she did this all by herself!

Friday, March 11, 2011


Welcome to the very first post of A Ripening Life, a place to celebrate the snippets of everyday life that move us, teach us, and make us lol. A scrapbook of sorts, where I will paste in not only my thoughts, photos and mementos, but also those of writers, mentors, and people everywhere who inspire us. I would love nothing more than to see this blog take on a (ripening) life of its own.


Last summer I had an experience that was so meaningful, and I thought it might be a good one to share in my opening post. It happened when I returned to my college alma mater for a class reunion and had arrived a day early. It was a gorgeous California day and feeling sentimental and nostalgic, I roamed the campus.

I found myself at my old brick dorm of sophomore year. It was an ancient building when I lived there 37 years ago ... built in the 1920's I think, and even more ancient now. Whenever I've returned to campus over the years, I'm always surprised to see that this dorm hasn't been demolished and replaced with a new facility. But it was legendary in 1973 and old or not, its charm and location in the heart of campus perhaps still makes it a popular place to live. In all my visits to campus, this dorm has always been locked up and as much as I wanted to wander the halls and soak up my youth, I'd never been able to.

But on this day I was astonished to find the main door unlocked and I climbed the familiar stairs to the second floor. There was my friend Sue's old corner room, the door wide open. God, all the times we sat on her top bunk drinking cheap Lucky Lager beer, singing Stairway to Heaven. The next room was open too, and the next ... every room down the hallway was wide open and empty, void of beds or desks. I came to the 4th one, room 206 .... my old room, and turned into the doorway.

The room looked exactly the same as it had in 1973! Nothing remodeled, nothing changed. It felt the same too, like it had when I walked into its waiting emptiness 37 years ago, arms full with boxes of books and bedding, a desk lamp and a coleus plant. The same old sash windows revealed the same tree outside, but now it's once young limbs were thick with age, hiding the view beyond.

The worn wooden floor creaked as I stepped just inside the door. Now even more worn and scarred with age, it had clearly never been replaced! The same tiny wooden wardrobe closets flanked the door. Originally designed for a few simple dresses and a couple pairs of shoes, they were no longer practical for today's co-ed. I pulled out the clunky old drawer beneath the wardrobe on the left, my side of the room, and I could almost see my college sweaters folded inside.

I turned on the old light switch ... it made the same thick thunky sound! There was the empty corner where my bed once stood. And here was the same old porcelain wall-mounted sink, the same mirrored medicine cabinet above it, the same ancient towel bars! I was stunned that it was all unchanged, that the university had never remodeled or replaced one thing in all these years! The mature tree outside the window was my only clue that it was not still 1973.

I went to the window and tried to peer through the dense leaves of the tree, looking for the view that I knew so well. From that second story window decades ago, I could see beyond the young limbs and watch the comings and goings at The End Zone, the campus coffee shop. See students studying (or not) under the trees. Or cheer on fraternity bros playing mud football on the lawn after a heavy rain. Now I couldn't see a thing.

I walked the few steps back to the sink and turned the faucet on, then off. I opened the medicine cabinet and peaked inside at its empty wooden shelves, remembering my toothbrush there, a bottle of aspirin, a tin of band aids. My mascara and a hairbrush. I wondered about all the girls who had used these shelves since. We belonged to the same sorority ... the sisters of room 206, when our lives were ripe with possibilities.

When I clicked the medicine cabinet door shut, my young sophomore self looked back at me from the dingy mirror. There I was, straight blond hair, reckless and cavalier, filled with hope and lofty ideas. Afraid and confused. A college girl who wanted to stay in this moment and never grow up.

Then I felt the years between then and now roll toward me, unfolding like a big blooming Georgia O'Keeffe flower, sped up. I thought about the difficulties I would face once I left the shelter college provided, how I would flounder and lose my way. I thought about the long awakening years that followed and as I watched my 20-year old self fade from the mirror, I liked what I saw in the 57-year old still-ripening me standing there. I grinned, as I knew something the young me did not know; that it had all turned out so beautifully. That there would someday be a wonderful husband, a daughter beyond words, abundance, health, creative work and tremendous friends, many of whom have stuck with me since I occupied this dorm room, and many new ones.

I soaked it up. And as I looked around room 206 I acknowledged that nothing here had changed or grown but the tree outside this window. And me.

Funny how that happens ... change, growth and trickles of wisdom. It happens so slowly over time that sometimes we forget to recognize it. One day we might find that the door we have been pounding on has been left unlocked, and behind it hangs a dingy mirror that shows us the space between youth and now. It's a beautiful reflection of a journey both arduous and gratifying.

My life was ripe with possibilities in 1973. I was just going to have to work it out.