Missed Opportunity

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Mom!” shouted Mimi, “Did you know that this Sunday is Mother’s Day?”

“What?” I asked as a shot of adrenaline shot through my body. How could it possibly be Mother’s Day already I wondered to myself. My panicked thoughts were flying all over the place. Was it too late to order flowers? Could a card possibly get there on time…maybe I could blame it on the Post Office as things were still moving slowly. Then, taking a deep breath, I quieted my mind for a moment. Then I realized a very important fact.

“Mimi…Mother’s Day is always in May…it’s still April! This Sunday is not Mother’s Day!”

“Whew!” we both said in unison, relieved that we hadn’t failed on this special holiday.

Later on we were telling Shaun about our near gaffe, when I realized that I had made a huge mistake.

“Wait, I was wrong,” I exclaimed, “Mother’s Day is this Sunday! I need to get something for Grandma. You probably have some shopping to do as well.” My family just looked at me and laughed. They knew exactly what I was thinking. If only I had realized sooner that I should have just agreed with Mimi and enjoyed two Special Days just for me!

Hmm….maybe I’ll get another opportunity next year.

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Peace and Quiet


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Somehow, I ended up with a very loud family. (I completely blame my husband for this!) Whenever my growing kids got a little too loud, I may have threatened to run away to the library. To my introverted, quiet-seeking way of thinking, it has always been the perfect place. No loud noises allowed, lots and lots of reading material, comfy chairs, free internet and plenty of time to enjoy it all. Then, about this time last year, the library closed abruptly. Of course, nearly everything else closed as well, but it was the library that I missed the most. Fortunately for me, I had just checked out an enormous stack of books and had no way to return them. I was set for a while.

When things started opening up again, the library did so in a very modified way. You could finally return your books by dropping them in a bin via a slot in the wall. They would sit there for three days…apparently long enough for any virus to die. Then you could order books online through the huge library catalog, when they were ready and delivered to your local branch, you had a week to make an appointment to come pick them up. At your scheduled time and date, the library items you had requested were waiting for you in a brown paper gift bag. You just had to tell the librarian that was standing on the other side of a very wide table who you were and they would slide them over for you.

For the last few days I had been trying to schedule a time to pick up my latest batch of books. The app that we had to use seemed to be having a few glitches. At first it simply said that none of the times I was trying to schedule were available. This was incredibly frustrating because I tried every single time slot there was! When I tried to schedule a time this morning, it said that my library was no longer scheduling appointments. I may have directed a few choice words towards the buggy software.

On my way home from a running a few errands, I decided to stop in, apologize for not having an appointment and ask for my holds. As I walked up towards the door I was a bit baffled. The usual barricade of carefully placed tables wasn’t there. Instead there were two staff members armed with a thermometer and a box of masks. They invited me inside the library and told me I could now pick up my own books!

I strolled inside gazing all around at the freshly scrubbed and rearranged library. I was almost to the hold area when I stopped to chat with one of my favorite librarians. I told them how happy I was to be inside again and how adorable her new hair-do looked. It all seemed so very normal.

As excited as I am about each little step back towards “normal,” I’m mostly excited about being able to go through as many books as I want before checking them out. Oh, and it’s quite wonderful to know there is now a place to run away to when I need a few moments of peace and quiet…

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Hello! Remember me?

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Hello Friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve seriously thought about blogging again. It was such a huge part of my life for so long…and then Facebook came along. It seemed so much simpler to just write a few lines to all my friends and family instead of taking time to write my little stories of life. The only thing was…I missed it. It seemed like so much effort to start again and when the kids grew up, I was at a loss.

Anyways, that was then, this is now. The perfect place to stick my toe back in the blogging waters has opened up. It’s called Blogging with Effy. She is an artist that has cultivated a wonderful community of kindred souls, that is encouraging everyone to blog for just one month. (OK, I’m a week late starting here!)

Looking at my current blog, it could probably use a bit of updating. I don’t know if I’ll get to that, but I can bring you up to date (or introduce us!) on who we are. Spoiler alert: My kids aren’t teenagers anymore!

I am Susan, living in the beautiful pacific northwest with my husband, youngest daughter and a whole mess of critters.

My husband Shaun retired a year ago. We were supposed to spend this last year traveling and doing all sorts of things…but we all know how that went. His current passion is bicycles. He rides them, builds them, repairs them…well…you get the picture.

KT is our eldest daughter. She’s a veterinarian living in Montana with my two adorable grandpups. We like to call her Dr KT just because we can.

Our youngest, Mimi, moved back home with us so that they could go back to school to become a teacher after an 8 year career as a barber. I’m pretty sure it was a bit of a shock to learn that almost every single minute would be spent at home!

I hope you join me again tomorrow as I continue on Day 2 of my blogging adventure!

Thank you for reading A Slice of My Life. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you liked this post, why not consider “liking” my Facebook Page, subscribing by mail (at the upper right) or signing up in a reader. I’d be thrilled and you would never miss a post. Oh…and I love comments!

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Technical Difficulties!

I had ever intention of blogging everyday, but that just wasn’t happening due to incredibly frustrating technical difficulties and just plain being busy climbing mountains!

If you are interested in my story, I’d suggest checking out my Instagram page <a href=”http://instagram.com/susaniv” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>instagram.com/susaniv</a>

I will also be posting on the blog’s Facebook page. You can do a search for A Slice of my Life, or just push the button at the right.

Sorry about not officially blogging, but I hope you join me in those other places!

Susan

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Susan and I arrived at Heathrow yesterday afternoon. It always amazes me how exhausting it is to travel even if you are mostly just sitting. My Partner-in-Crime insisted that the best way to adjust ourselves to local time was to resist our natural urge to
sleep.We thought the best way to find something fun to do would be to ask for help at the hotel desk. The clerk thought for a moment and told us the only interesting thing in town rime insisted that the best way to adjust ourselves to local time was to resist
our natural urge to sleep.We thought the best way to find something fun to do would be to ask for help at the hotel desk. The clerk thought for a moment and told us the only interesting thing in town was the new bowling alley. She must’ve caught the less than enthusiastic glances Susan and I sent to each other as she quickly added that we could take public transport into London.An hour or so after that, we were armed with the highly detailed directions the clerk graciously wrote out for us after I asked her to please direct us to exactly where we needed to go after out the front door. We caught our first bus that was to take us to The Tube. Although we knew exactly which line and exit we needed to take, we were a little
stymied on how to actually purchase our ticket. So I asked the attendant. He gave us a bit of a hard time, but was quite willing to help
us. It wasn’t too long before we found ourselves in front of Buckingham palace just in time to witness the Changing of the Guard. We were thrilled!We wandered around Green Park for a bit, then made our way to Chinatown. We stopped
for nice dinner in one of the many restaurants as we haeaten all day. We really, really wanted to wander around as the night life was starting to pick up, but we could barely keep our eyes open and thought it best to make our way back to our hotel.I’d like
to say it was a piece of cake to travel back to our room, but a combination of unfamliar places, being overtired, and unused to the way English is spoken here, caused small delays. Still, we made it back. Such a great start to our trip. I cant wait for tomorrow!
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Blogging, Tech Support and Fairy Godmothers

One would think that it would be a fairly simple process to start blogging again. Just a bit of time at the keyboard, struggling to write a somewhat interesting story, do a quick scan for grammar, spelling and any other typos (husbands are generally very good at that sort of thing.), hit publish, then go on your merry way.

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Boy was I in for a surprise. Once I managed to write something that I could live with, I squinted up my face, and whispered a little prayer that folks would still like what I had to say and sent it out into the world. Sadly, my first blog post in forever didn’t go very far. It just…kinda…settled down into one of the odd little nooks and crannies in the World Wide Web.

It’s no secret that I’ve never been a strong techie person. My brain simply isn’t that logical. At one point in time, I could figure things out, but it was never something I enjoyed. Still, I needed to fix this, so my good friend, Google and I got to work. We figured out that my blog was running an outdated version of PHP. (I STILL have no idea what that is!) I found a website that said my web host provider should have been keeping that up to date. So, I contacted my domain provider. Mostly because I didn’t know the difference, and I had to start somewhere.

I started a “chat” with the most amazingly patient person you could ever imagine. I’m fairly certain that they were rolling their eyes as they answered all of my inane questions, and explained things to me with analogies that I could understand. They even went in with a magic wand (Or at least that’s what I envisioned) and coaxed the blog out of the cranny it was hiding in so that the world could see it. I was so impressed that this person went out of their way to help me with something that had absolutely nothing to do with their company that…well… I completely forgot what they said I had to do.

So, I contacted my Geeky Fairy Godmother, Edie. (She once made me drive her around to all the techie companies here in Seattle so that she could pose as a ballerina in front of them!) She did a little bit of hocus pocus behind the scenes and told me I was several version behind, and to just not worry about it until I came back from my Epic Trek Across England.

That seems like a simple process to me. Besides, who am I to argue with a Fairly Godmother?

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Thank you for reading A Slice of My Life. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you liked this post, why not consider “liking” my Facebook Page, subscribing by mail (at the upper right) or signing up in a reader. I’d be thrilled and you would never miss a post. Oh…and I love comments!

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Being Impulsive

A little over a year ago, my friend Susan, who lives in San Diego, called me, as she often does. She had read an article in her local newspaper about something called the Coast to Coast Trail in England. She explained that it was a 192 mile walk across the entire country and that she wanted to gather a bunch of girlfriends to do it with her. Then she asked if I was in. I thought about it long and hard for about thirty seconds or so before impulsively saying “Sure! That could be fun!” Then I asked who else was coming. Susan rattled off a list of several names of women that I either knew or knew about. She had planned to invite a fun and lively group. It sounded so exciting! We decided that this would be the perfect thing to celebrate out 55th birthdays.

A few weeks later, when Susan and I were chatting again, she broke the news that nobody else was willing to commit to doing this challenging walk. She asked me, as she would ask me several more times over the next few months, if I was absolutely positive I was willing to do this. I answered, as I always did, that I said I would do it, so I would do it.

The thing is, it’s easy to agree to do something when you have more than a year to prepare for it. When I think about it, I’m not entirely why I agreed to do this insane trek. I didn’t really feel the need to mark my 55th year on this planet with anything epic . (Well, I did have an amazing birthday party, but that’s another story) I guess it just sounded like a good thing to do.

I suppose this is a good time to tell you that I wasn’t hiker…heck…I was barely a walker. As an overweight and rather sedentary woman, the very idea of walking a mile was rather daunting….nearly 200 miles just wasn’t imaginable. I immediately trained hard by reading blog posts about the train and re-joining the gym…and not actually going.
At the beginning of this summer, I realized that this was really happening and I had better get serious. So I spend a few hours getting fitted for the right hiking boots for me and then pestered my more experienced girlfriends to go walking with me. I don’t think they knew how terrifying it was to me to go off the sidewalk, onto a trail.

In just over a week, I will climb on a plane to England. (technically I will go to Portland first!) We will have a few days to explore and then hit the trail. Hopefully all my training will pay off, and I’ll have as much fun as I envisioned last June when Susan invited me to join her.

I hope you’ll follow along.Image may contain: Susan Ivory, smiling, tree, sky, outdoor, nature and closeup

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Those Dashing Young Men

Note: This is a repost from  November 10, 2011  It seems apt to post it today.

When I was about twelve or thirteen, one of my girl friends and I were allowed to take the city bus to Third Avenue.  This was the downtown area of our small city, filled with a plethora of small shops and eateries.  We felt so grown up on our exciting adventures of lunching and shopping. 

One of the doors that we always passed on our rare jaunts was intriguing to me.  There were two signs on the door that always seemed to be propped open.  One announced that it was for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The other boldly stated that nobody under the age of twenty-one was to come inside. 

The mystery of what lay beyond that dark and smoky doorway nearly drove me nuts. My over-active imagination visualized dashing young men in a variety of uniforms, speaking with exotic accents, wearing peg legs and eye patches. I imagined them sitting in that gloomy room speaking in reverent tones about the battles they had fought, and of course won, upon the shores of somewhere far, far away.  

I remember peering through that door hoping to catch a glimpse of a handsome stranger. Yet, being the rule-follower that I was, dared not cross the the threshold until I had reached the ripe age of twenty-one.  How I longed to see what was beyond that doorway. 

It’s interesting to see the perspective that several years of wisdom can give us.  I still don’t know what was behind that door that is no longer on Third Avenue.  I’d guess that it was a bar, but beyond that…maybe some sort of support group? I have no idea.

I do know that there is nothing romantic about war. I also know that there is a lot more to being a veteran than fighting in one.  Men and women serve our country in so many ways.  Some fly helicopters, some are mechanics, others peel potatoes in the mess hall to nourish our troops.  All have important jobs to protect the freedoms that have been fought for all of us, since the beginning of our great nation. 

I love the stories I hear of returning troops being applauded in airports. The tales of strangers that come up members of our armed services just to thank them for all they have done.  Shamefully, we haven’t always treated our troops with such honor.  I’m glad that we live in a time that now treats them as the heroes they are.   I encourage you to take a moment today to pause and think of our vets. And all the sacrifices that they and their families have made.  

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My father, when he was a dashing young sailor.  (Who always refused to wear an eye patch or a peg leg.)

Happy Veterans Day!

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Magical Fall

When I was a young girl, I had come to the conclusion that the magical changing of the leaf colors in autumn was due to the work of an elusive woodland elf. In my mind, his name was Henry. He, of course, was one of Jack Frost’s many cousins. Instead of waving his magic wand and transforming our world into a Winter Wonderland with frost and delicate icicles, Henry merrily splattered fiery hues of orange, red, yellow and brown on most of the leaves for his own amusement.

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Somewhere on the way to adulthood, I realized that a paintbrush wielding elf named Henry was highly unlikely. I have to confess that if the glorious colors of fall couldn’t be a result of magic, then it didn’t matter to me. If I did think about it, I was vaguely aware that it had something to do with the weather getting cold and making the leaves die. Oh, and it was pretty to look at. Recently, I learned that fall color actually can be explained by a certain kind of magic. It’s a progression called senescence, or the process of aging and death. It’s all explained by science.

It turns out that fall color actually starts long before fall. All summer long, leaves bask in the long hot days, soaking up the sunshine and converting it into sugars using chlorophyll in the process of photosynthesis. Each leaf makes more than it needs, so it passes glucose and minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium into the xylem of the tree in a process called translocation. They are then stored in the roots and stems of the tree. In return, water is passed back to the leaf so that it can continue its food making efforts.  

Towards the end of summer, the tree “notices” that the daylight hours are getting shorter. This is a signal that it’s time to stop food production and start shutting down for the winter. The leaves are no longer needed as there isn’t enough light or water available in the winter for them to produce food.

A layer of cells called the “abscission” or separation layer that is located between the tree stem and the petiole or stalk of the leaf starts to thicken, limiting the flow of resources between the tree and the leaf. When the flow between the leaf and tree begins to be cut off, there is still glucose trapped in the leaf. This is when the color magic happens.

The chlorophyll that is used in food production, and makes the leaf appear green begins to break down and isn’t replaced, as it is all summer. As the green coloring fades, the other pigments that are always present in the leaf, but masked by the overpowering chlorophyll begin to shine. The yellow pigments are called xanthophylls and the orange ones are carotenoids. Brown colorings come from tannin, a waste product.

Some trees, have more pigments called anthocyanin that, when exposed to abundant sunshine, “cook” the trapped glucose and develop into bright reds, purples and bronzes. Cool night temperatures, paired with sunny days create the best color as it encourages the formation of the anthocyanins. Researchers are not quite clear why a leaf would expend the extra energy to develop these colorings when the leaf will soon fall off. One theory is that it serves as an anti-freeze allowing the leaves to last longer. Other thoughts are that the reds may serve as a warning for pests not to lay eggs or as a sunscreen or even to limi water loss.

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Interestingly, color displays are different in various areas of the world. The amount of sunshine, temperature changes and soil moisture as well as plant genetics all play a huge part in the array of fall color. It’s fascinating to think that the same exact cultivar of tree can look stunning in one area, and just look average or even boring in another area of the world.

All too soon the abscission layer becomes completely blocked and the leaf tears off, gently floating to the ground. If left there, the warm blanket of leaves will help insulate the tree and eventually start to break down, thus even after it has fallen, supply the tree with its remaining nutrients.

Somehow, I think this process is even more exciting and magical than a woodland elf with a bucket of paint. I’d like to think that my old friend Henry would agree.

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The Plants and I

I suppose I should admit that I wasn’t always interested in plants. In fact, I did my very best to be somewhere, anywhere, else all those weekend mornings that my dad held reveille at the crack of dawn. Dad had grown up on a farm and thought it would be a great character-building experience to head out to work the fields…er…the smallish garden in our back yard every weekend. I always thought there had to be better ways to build character.

When I got old enough to move into my first apartment, I was given a small plant as a housewarming gift. To my amazement, my little green friend grew and flourished with just the smallest bit of attention. Charmed, I set about finding him a whole set of adoptive siblings. We all lived quite happily together until my cat had kittens. It turns out that kittens think the dangling leaves of plants are delightful to play with. They also considered the soil the plants lived in to be far superior to traditional kitty litter. By the time the kittens were old enough to go to new homes, my plants had moved on to that garden in the sky. I realized then, that I must not a Plant Person.

Flashing forward multiple years, I found myself teaching a few preschool classes at our local Parks and Rec department. The director decided for reasons that are still unclear to me, that I should develop and teach a parent-child gardening class. It didn’t matter that I claimed to have no knowledge of gardening and had even brandished my Brown Thumb at her. She was adamant that I was the one to teach this class.

I had a couple weeks to frantically research gardening and plants in general. My challenge was to design a program simple enough for a three year old to understand, yet compelling enough to hold the interest of an adult. The more I studied, the more fascinated I became with the flora around me. When the first day of class arrived, I was ready. The parents treated me as though I were an expert in the field. They had zillions of questions to ask about the gardens surrounding our outdoor classroom, and to my astonishment, I knew most of the answers. Somehow, I was hooked on plants again.

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Since then, I’ve spend more time and money visiting nurseries than I should probably admit. For the last few years, my friends and I have been coming to the plant sale held at one of our local colleges. My friends always looked around in awe at the lovely plants. I, on the other hand, in addition to admiring the plants, have enviously observed the students that had grown all those beautiful plants.

This last year, I became an empty nester. With no kids in the house and just a part-time job, I decided that the time was finally right for me to join those students and go back to school to learn about the plants that I enjoy so much.

It was a scary decision. School was a long time ago, and a lot of things have changed. To be honest, I was filled with self-doubt. Fortunately, I have the full support of my family and friends. As was mentioned by both of my instructors on the first day of school, this is the start of a wonderful new adventure.

I’m so glad I decided to take that first step.

Posted in Gardening, Horticulture, It's all about me! | 3 Comments