I nodded my head in agreement. I started to think of all the blessings I have filling my life. I have been able to travel and see many parts of the world. I have wonderful people in my life. I am in a good place in time.
Then I read the invitation from Ruth today.
I started wondering how gratitude and appreciation intermingle. So I did what anyone does when you wonder something, I went to my friend Google. I was surprised to discover others had asked and answered the question: What is the difference between appreciation and gratitude?
Tanei the Science Guy wrote a blog post back in 2018 with that question as the title of a post. His take on it is time. Appreciation is living in the now. Gratitude is living in the past and the now simultaneously. I love the analogy Tanei gives:
Gratitude is the training wheels. Appreciation is when you take the training wheels off.
Perhaps you might dwell on appreciation this year. I know I am forming a mental list of all that I appreciate. If you are reading this, know that you are on my list and that is a good thing. 🙂
In my twenties, I went to a Mexican restaurant and ordered tacos. When they arrived the filling was shredded beef! I was appalled! What was this? Tacos are made with hamburger, right? I never went back to that restaurant because they obviously had no idea how to make a taco.
Now let’s fast forward 40+ years . . .
Tacos are no longer ground beef, cheese, lettuce, chopped tomato and if I want to be really fancy, sour cream. I have explored the world of tacos and tasted an interesting combination of flavors. A few other unique flavors I have tried include crispy black bean and feta tacos, sweet chili fajita tacos, and roasted cauliflower street tacos.
Perhaps it’s more a taco revolution than an evolution. Whatever it is, I am enjoying the new flavors.
The day was dark, damp with gusty winds. The kind of day best spent with a book, a cup of something warm, and a cozy comforter. Instead, I needed to take my mother to her dentist.
There are perks in my car that make traveling on dark, damp, and gusty wind days tolerable. My seat heater was set to high, but there was another button pressed that made me smile. Do you know what this button on my steering wheel does?
So, channeling Jimmy Fallon’s thank you notes, I write a thank you post to this button.
Dear Heated Steering Wheel,
Thank you for being there for me when my hands grip the cold surface of the steering wheel. You slowly warm my frozen fingers. Because of you, I follow my driver’s ed teacher’s command to keep hands at ten and two. I admit, sometimes I do use eight and four, just to feel the warmth. My palms soak up your gentle heat. When you are on, my hands never leave the wheel. What a luxury you are! Thank you for keeping my fingers toasty!
If you ever get to experience a heated steering wheel, you will want one in your vehicle too. Trust me. 🙂
Did we really appreciate our unlimited human contact before the virus derailed our lives? Meeting up with friends (or relatives), enjoying a bite in a restaurant, saying good-bye with a hug are all actions in a previous lifetime. Hopefully, they will return to our lives.
March 8 was the last time I saw two friends in person. Impending stay-at-home orders were looming. I had belated Christmas gifts to deliver and feared if I didn’t do it on this day, they would never get delivered. The encounters were brief, no hugs allowed, just an elbow bump.
Through the days and months, we kept in contact with a couple of zoom meets, phone calls, and FaceTime. Our usual birthday celebrations were put on hold. Until one of us had enough. She decided we would gather in her backyard and spend an evening together. It was easy to find a date that was free, so it was settled, Friday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.
My friend, Tiffany, is the ultimate hostess. She has a flair for making any occasion special. The fire pit had a small fire going. A nearby table was draped with a tablecloth, multiple lanterns were lit, a pitcher of Autumn Punch waited to fill the copper mugs. Of course there were s’more fixings, but also hand sanitizer and wipes.
A cheese ball (shaped like a pumpkin, of course) and crackers were brought out for a snack before the main event – pizza cooked on the big green egg.
There wasn’t just one pizza or two, no she created FOUR different pizzas! Each one with unique flavors, all extremely tasty!
After pizza, we settled around the fire pit to chat and watch the dancing flames. Decorated pumpkin shaped sugar cookies (made by Tiffany) were the first dessert. It was so relaxing, being with dear friends and visiting. I had forgotten what it was like to be with someone besides my husband and mother. Soon the pokers for the marshmallows were brought out and s’mores were the final touch on the evening.
I hope you have a friend like Tiffany. She brings joy where ever she is. (What makes this evening even more extraordinary is Tiffany is an instructional specialist working full-time in an elementary school that is face-to-face five days a week.) I don’t know how she managed to create this perfect evening, but I am thankful that she did. (FYI – she sent two of the cookies home as favors.)
My fingers fumbled to get those plastic wrappers off the caramel block. I searched for the folded end to strip that cellophane from that nugget of sweetness. Clunk! Another one drops into the saucepan. Soon they are all unwrapped and I am left with a pile of wrappers which I stuff into their original bag as they flip and float around me. I proudly deliver the saucepan to my mother so she can melt them into gooey caramelness.
The apples are washed and each standing tall sporting a flat wooden stick where the stem used to be. Wax paper is waiting to receive the apple draped in caramel. I am waiting for the caramel to harden just enough.
That first bite is tricky. I have to use both hands. One hand holds on to the stick. A finger from the other hand pushes the apple against my teeth so I can get caramel and apple in the bite. If I don’t push hard enough, my teeth only scrape the caramel. Once the apple skin is broken, the rest of the treat can be handled with one hand.
Years later at a craft fair, I discovered apple slices drizzled with warm caramel. Yum! That is now my preferred way of having this fall treat. Of course I rarely get this treat these days. Unfortunately, my husband does not care for caramel. I have been known to buy a container of caramel sauce. You might be surprised to find out how long that sauce can last in the refrigerator. 🙂
Again, I was given another two hours to wander in the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. I set off in the opposite direction from last week. I quickly came across an area filled with plants that had not yet been planted.
This surprised me! This is the time of year you are putting in new plants? Later, I learned from my husband (who learned it from his class) these were plants being transferred in the garden. Currently the garden constructing a new entrance, so these will be relocated after the construction.
I wandered down the path and came across the children’s garden. The gate was open, so I went in to explore the entrance as the actual children’s garden was closed. Doesn’t this look like a mess?
I was intrigued by the sign proclaiming this a scent garden. I sniffed (through the mask) and smelled popcorn. I inhaled again and this time it was cilantro. This was prairie dropseed and the odor is most prominent in the fall. I couldn’t believe how potent it was smelling through my mask!
My attention was grabbed by this plant: American Beautyberry. I loved the gradation of of the berry colors. This section of the garden had the purple berry, but later I found the white berry in another section of the gardens.
The path led me to the Center for Home Gardening where tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers filled the beds along with a few other interesting plants, such as this one – Okra. I could not believe the size of the okra!
I would have loved to walk under the arbor filled with hanging gourds, but I suppose it was safer to view it from the side.
As I left the garden area, I entered the Japanese garden. It was time for a little zen.
Just imagine creating a gravel garden. Using a special rake to create designs and lines in the gravel. Peace descends . . .
as you move the rake slowly through the gravel.
But sometimes there is a problem . . .
someone (something) can’t read the sign and respect the request. Sigh!
Another sign is often posted. Can you figure out what some people may be inclined to do when they see these trees?
Please do not climb the tree. But isn’t it a tempting idea? Can’t you imagine sitting in the crook of the branch with a book? I can.
Time was running short and I had to revisit a spot from last week to note a change. This week I passed a plant that made me stop and look closely.
This is a balloon flower. This is the flower I saw in images when I googled balloon flower. I could not believe this flower came from the plant I saw the week before also labeled balloon flower.
So my conclusion is . . . there are two plants with the same name. I suppose their technical names are different, because I can’t believe the authority that names plants would give the same name to two totally different plants.
The pruning class is over, so it will be a new season when I return to the gardens and it will look very different.
How often do you get the chance to wander or leisurely stroll or stop, sit and observe in a botanical garden? What a gift! My husband was taking a pruning class for two hours, so I was on my own to wander or leisurely stroll or stop, sit and observe. I enjoyed every minute. Come with me for a few of the sights.
In the butterfly garden I discovered this balloon plant. The green balls are the bud, so I wonder if I will see flowers next week. (Yes, I get to go back next week too. 🙂 Stay tuned!) Butterflies like to lay their eggs on this plant and the larva love to eat it.
I didn’t see many butterflies hovering around the blossoms but I did spot
this enormous bumblebee! I was tempted to pet his fuzzy body, but reason took over and I only watched it and many more visiting the flowers.
After a wander through the hosta section of the gardens, I spent most of my time with water lilies.
The Victoria Water Lily looks like floating platters. The underside is covered with an arrangement of veins or ribs. Air becomes trapped between the ribs which allows it to float.
As I sat by the water lily gardens, I noticed movement. Water bugs were playing tag on the still water. A dragonfly landed on a bud and rested. All of a sudden bubbles rise to the top, pause, then pop. Ripples appear from nowhere. I have the time to discover all the action happening on the surface of the water.
One last water lily view –
The tag said Lycoris, but this is not the plant google finds when searching. When I saw the leaf, top left, I though perhaps the very hungry caterpillar had visited.
What does this look like to you? Does it look like a plant you might see in the spring? This is an autumn crocus! I had no idea there was such a plant.
Next week I will explore another section of the gardens. Wonder what I will find. Here is one final picture –
As a child, I devoured books. Trixie Belden, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and more lived in my head and heart. I followed their adventures with glee. Then in high school I fell in love with Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, D’Artagnan in The Three Muskateers, or anything by James Michner. The longer the book, the more I enjoyed being lost in this fictional world. Fiction ruled my reading world.
Nonfiction reading was for writing research papers. I didn’t really consider that “reading.” Where was the joy in facts? This reading had a purpose, meet the teacher’s request to research and spit back the information acquired.
Now I must admit, I did love reading nonfiction picture books. The combination of the pictures with the text opened my mind to an interesting natural world. They piqued my curiosity.
So that was the extent of my nonfiction reading, until I read a book by Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness. A couple of friends were reading it and their conversations intrigued me to discover this book, too. Sy Montgomery has caught me in her web of books and I can’t stop reading and thinking about her ability to draw the reader into her world of discovery.
Currently, I am reading Birdology by Sy Montgomery. The sub title is Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur. Doesn’t that just make you want to know more?
I’ve always been interested in watching birds, but this book gives me a whole new perspective to consider. In the introduction she says,
“No matter where we live, birds live with us. Too many of us take them for granted. We don’t appreciate how very strange they are, how different. We don’t realize what otherworldly creatures birds are.”
All this is to say, that on my morning walk I passed a neighbor’s yard and saw this –
a yard shimmering with little spider webs. I stepped closer. There was a red dot in the first one. I looked at another one, same red dot.
I gently blew on the red dot. It scurried to the edge of the web. I was curious, I needed to know more. Probably Sy Montgomery would have a variety of protocols in place to help her learn more, however, I just used google when I got home. 🙂
According to my “research” they are probably black-tailed red sheetweavers also known as red grass spiders. They are only found in Mexico, the West Indies, and the United States. Should you want to know more about these spiders click here. During the day, the webs disappear. I will be looking tomorrow to see if they reappear.
I needed these words on Tuesday. I found these words Thursday. I will keep them front and center if I have a day like Tuesday again.
Last week was my birthday. I decided to celebrate all week long. Small moments each day filled my heart with joy. It continued through the weekend and then Tuesday arrived.
It was dreary, no sunshine to recharge my internal solar battery. I ached. I was out-of-sorts. I don’t usually have that kind of day. I hoped that in the morning I would wake up with a better attitude.
“We plan our days, but we don’t control them.” I read this sentence in the book Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. I stopped reading. I grabbed a notebook to save those words to ponder their truth.
Life rolled along allowing us to do what we wanted, when we wanted, where we wanted with a few restrictions. That’s the way it was and would always be, so I thought. I guess I thought I was in control of my days because life followed my plan, usually. Then a virus appeared and spread around the world ending everyday life as we knew it.
Before the virus, I could make plans. Sometimes the plan worked out, sometimes the plan needed a little tweaking. The tweaking was no big deal.
Now, I might make a plan, but changing that plan turns into a big deal. Is the risk worth the change in plans? Usually not. Who would have thought that going to the grocery store, eating in a restaurant, or browsing in a shop might alter one’s life?
This virus has taken control of our days. It dictates when one should go to the store. It makes you wash your hands after getting the mail or picking up the newspaper from the driveway. It is the first thing one needs to do when entering the house. I wear a mask and plastic gloves anytime I am out in public. There is a bottle of hand gel and a canister of antibacterial wipes in a basket in the front seat of my car (plus a ziplock bag of cloth masks and an empty ziplock for used masks). I worry a lot about family members and friends. Will I ever see them in person again? (That has never been a concern before.) I hope so.
So for now, I will keep the plan for my day is simple, because I know I don’t have total control.